Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

July 12, 2010

Tuli Kupferberg: another great loss

Filed under: beatniks — louisproyect @ 11:44 pm


July 12, 2010, 4:01 PM Tuli Kupferberg, Poet and Singer, Dies at 86


Tuli Kupferberg, the poet, singer and professional bohemian who went from being a noted Beat to becoming, in his words, “the world’s oldest rock star” when he helped found the Fugs, the bawdy and politically pugnacious folk-rock group, died on Monday in Manhattan. He was 86 and had been a longtime resident of Greenwich Village.

He had been in weak health after suffering two strokes last year, said Ed Sanders, his friend and fellow Fug.

Mr. Kupferberg was something of a Beatnik celebrity when he and Mr. Sanders started the Fugs in 1964. Already in his 40s, he was an anthologized poet and published a series of literary magazines with titles like Birth and Yeah. And to his chagrin and embarrassment, he had also found a kind of notoriety as the inspiration for one of the characters in Allen Ginsberg’s poem “Howl.” He was the one who “jumped off the Brooklyn Bridge this actually happened and walked away unknown and forgotten.”

Between 1965 and 1970 the Fugs released six albums of music that could be puerile (“Boobs a Lot”), politically provocative (“Kill for Peace”) or gentle and even scholarly (“Ah, Sunflower, Weary of Time,” based on a poem by Blake). The band became “the U.S.O. of the left,” Mr. Kupferberg once said, playing innumerable antiwar rallies, including the “exorcism” of the Pentagon in 1967 that was chronicled by Norman Mailer in his book “The Armies of the Night.”

In the years since the Fugs, Mr. Kupferberg has been a regular sight in Lower Manhattan, selling his satirical cartoons on the street and serving as an grandfather for bohemian types of all ages. He embraced the bohemian designation, tracing the word back to its origins back to 12th-century Paris, where “the craziest students once came from Bohemia,” he once said in an interview with the music Web site Perfect Sound Forever. Among his books were “1,001 Ways to Live Without Working.”

Lately he has been posting his sometimes ribald “perverbs” — brief videos punning on well-known aphorisms — on YouTube.

His survivors include his wife, Sylvia Topp; and three children.

A full obituary will follow.


  1. I listened to the Kill for Peace album, when I was a teen. Thanx for the memories.

    Comment by Renegade Eye — July 13, 2010 @ 1:16 am

  2. First Pekar now Tuli are taken in one week, if only Polanski could go the way..
    (and THAT folks is my obnoxious one-liner.)

    Comment by Michael T — July 13, 2010 @ 7:45 am

  3. Louis,

    the Infoshop tells us that Tuli was an anarchist –


    Wikipedia tells us that Tuli was a pacifist anarchist and details him being active among fellow anarchists –


    Curiously enough you omitted this. One wonders why? Accidental? Or something to do with you carrying Marx’s inane sectarian legacy of contempt of Anarchism (or anyone opposing his “theory” for that matter)? Sectarianism – which, interestingly enough you are so critical of when it comes to the Marxist cults, but outside the big M family actively propagate in action.

    Don’t you find it quite digusting that even in his death you couldn’t avoid your sectarian bias and hence effectively denied your readers an important part Tuli’s legacy.

    Comment by Saif — July 13, 2010 @ 7:55 pm

  4. In case you hadn’t noticed, I have only criticized anarchism once, over 5 years ago in fact. My beef is with adventurism, whether it was the SDS Weathermen in the 1970s or the Black Bloc today. The Weathermen were Guevarists, at least in their fevered imagination, but that didn’t impress me. I am for mass action. Anything that gets in the way of that I oppose.

    Comment by louisproyect — July 13, 2010 @ 8:13 pm

  5. Not a single article, that you have published on your website, in connection with Anarchism, is positive; they either categorise actions taken by anarchists as nihilist, adventurist or macho-militarist, etc; specifically on G20 – maybe you don’t understand or don’t want to accept that most of the activist-organisers or at least most of the activist-organisers who are currently jailed and are facing serious trumped up charges are, after G20 Toronto, are anarchists. Or, maybe for you anarchism is synonymous with, as you put it, “adventurism”.

    This all aside, you DID omit that Tuli was an anarchist, for one or another reason – which, I am your sure, you know best. Or, should the blame be shifted to whomever wrote this “bohemian” obituary, afterall you only published it on your blog. Though, then the question is – do you have the responsibility towards what you publish on your blog?

    Would you have published Jim Blaut’s obituary, not authored by you, without mentioning his anti-eurocentric credentials or, worse vulgarising them by labelling his work as xenophilic or ethno-centric?

    Don’t taint Tuli’s memory with fetid sectarianism.

    Comment by Saif — July 13, 2010 @ 8:48 pm

  6. How in the world can you accuse me of viewing anarchism as synonymous with adventurism when I posted an anarchist critique of the black bloc: https://louisproyect.wordpress.com/2010/07/11/an-anarchist-critique-of-the-black-bloc/

    And to repeat, my posts on this blog are not attacks on anarchism. They are attacks on the black bloc, which is not the same thing as anarchism but a tactic employed by some anarchists who are unwittingly doing the work of the cops.

    Comment by louisproyect — July 13, 2010 @ 9:26 pm

  7. Honestly this is trite and stale – a communist critique of Soviet Russia, etc. etc. as long as it suits ones agenda. Read again what I wrote – “Not a single article, that you have published on your website, in connection with Anarchism, is positive”

    More importantly, more importantly, in both of your replies you dodged the issue about the curious omission of Tuli being a pacifist anarchist from the obituary that you published.

    Even with this objection you clearly are reluctant to add and accept that Tuli was an anarchist.

    Read my comment from – “This all aside” – if you need some help in reflecting what you have done in deflecting my objection from this omission.

    Comment by Saif — July 13, 2010 @ 11:00 pm

  8. Oh, I get it now. You are complaining because I have not written anything in praise of anarchism. The reason for it, dear child, is that I adhere to a different political philosophy. Neither have I written anything in praise of Henry George or Spinoza so don’t get bent out of shape.

    As far as Tuli being an anarchist, I certainly don’t hold that against him. I admire the heck out of Noam Chomsky even though he is an anarchist. I tend to forgive this sort of indiscretion when people are carrying out the good fight.

    Comment by louisproyect — July 13, 2010 @ 11:15 pm

  9. Louis,

    What a state you have sunk to.

    You didn’t get it, for you don’t want to.

    Comment by Saif — July 13, 2010 @ 11:38 pm

  10. Do any of my regular readers understand Saif’s problem with me? I confess to being totally bewildered.

    Comment by louisproyect — July 13, 2010 @ 11:52 pm

  11. In your entire obituary of Harvey Pekar you have too neglected to mention, even once, that he was a file clerk and a cancer survivor. This clearly shows your bias against file clerks with cancer. (probably).

    Comment by Michael T — July 14, 2010 @ 9:08 am

  12. Here’s a quote from an interview:


    “In retrospect one can say that both Marxism and Anarchist theory had serious defects. The Anarchists say their theory has never been tried; that’s one of the faults. If it never took power anywhere, it’s a defect.”

    It doesn’t sound like he was as much of a convinced anarchist as some have suggested here.

    Comment by PatrickSMcNally — July 14, 2010 @ 11:42 am

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