Death Of A Fug

by juli boggs

Tuli Kupferberg, the ribald bohemian grandfather and former medical librarian whom Ginsberg referred to in Howl as the one who “jumped off the Brooklyn Bridge [really the Manhattan Bridge] this actually happened and walked away unknown and forgotten,” died this week at 86 years old.

Kupferberg was born and raised on the lower east side of Manhattan and was something of a counter-culture celebrity even before he founded the Fugs at age 42 with fellow poet Ed Sanders in 1964. The bands first show was held in Sanders’ bookstore and was attended amongst many others by William Buroughs and Harry Smith. It was Smith who then persuaded Folkway Records to release the group’s first album The Village Fugs Sing Ballads of Contemporary Protest, Points of Views, and General Dissatisfaction in 1965, later re-released by ESP-Disk in ’66 as The Fugs First Album. Before their break-up five years later they had released six records and played something like 700 shows including an “exorcism” of the Pentagon in 1967.

The Fugs are considered one of the first underground rock bands in New York, preceding the punk scene (some even lump it in with that nebulous genre of “proto-punk”) with their own form of absurd, satirical, pacifistic folk songs like “Kill for Peace” and “Slum Goddess.”

After the Fugs disbanded, Kupferberg continued to perform with the Revolting Theater and the Fuxxons while peddling his cartoons along the streets of the lower east and released two albums of his own music. The group briefly rejoined in 1984, and most recently put out an album inspired by the events of Sep. 11th, The Fugs Final CD (Part One), and had recently completed the parts for a new album, Be Free: The Fugs Final CD (Part Two). Kupferberg had been going strong until a year ago when he suffered from two strokes in April and September respectively, leaving him virtually blind as he struggled with mounting medical bills. A show for his benefit was held in NYC in January featuring Sonic Youth, Lou Reed, fellow Fugs, and Jeffrey Lewis who had featured Tuli in his video “Williamsburg Will Oldham Horror”.

Kupferberg began writing for the Village Voice in the 40’s and put out his own magazine Birth in 1959 featuring among other articles the work of Alan Ginsberg. While Birth ran for only a few issues he would also go on to publish the magazines Swing and Yeah between 1961 and 1964. Aside from this he published around 50 books of his own writing and released a total of 16 albums with the Fugs between 1964 and 2003. Most recently he had been releasing a stream of Youtube “perverbs”, short clips punning on worn out aphorisms such as “nothing is fair in love of war.”

Long story short: productivity icon and inspiration.