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Pigpen

 
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light into ashes



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PostPosted: Mon Mar 08, 2010 7:14 am    Post subject: Pigpen Reply with quote

A selection of Pigpen videos:
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(Hard to Handle 7-3-70)
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(Easy Wind 7-1-70)
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(Hurts Me Too 4-17-72)
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(Next Time You See Me 4-17-72)
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(Chinatown Shuffle 4-17-72)

Phil Lesh:
"He cultivated a biker image, but he was more the Marlon Brando Wild Ones sensitive, brooding type. But funkier, way funkier - he had a leather shirt that I saw him wear every day I knew him. Never was Pigpen more at home than with a bottle of wine and a guitar, at home or at some party, improvising epic lues rant lyrics, playing Lightnin' Hopkins songs, and doing Lord Buckley routines. For him, joining the Mother McCree's jug band with Bob and Jerry was just a small step away from what he did anyway. Garcia told me it was Pigpen's idea to turn Mother McCree's into an electric blues band. When the band turned into the Grateful Dead, Pig became our keel, our roots, our fundamental tone. Pig was the perfect front man for the Dead: intense, commanding, comforting; but I don't think he enjoyed doing that quite as much as sitting on a couch with a guitar and a jug."

Jerry Garcia:
"Pigpen was the only guy in the band who had any talent when we were starting out. He was genuinely talented. He also had no discipline, but he had reams of talent. And he had that magical thing of being able to make stuff up as he went along. He also had great stage presence. The ironic thing was that he hated it - it really meant nothing to him; it wasn't what he liked. We had to browbeat him into being a performer. His best performances were one-on-one, sitting in a room with an acoustic guitar. That's where he was really at home and at his best.
"Out in front of the crowd he could work the band, and he'd really get the audience going. He always had more nerve than I could believe. He'd get the audience on his side, and he'd pick somebody out (like a heckler) and get on them... He was the guy who really sold the band, not me or Weir. Pigpen is what made the band work."

Mickey Hart:
"Pigpen was the musician in the Grateful Dead. When I first met the Grateful Dead, it was Pigpen and the boys. It was a blues band... Pigpen was a kind man. He looked so hard, but he was a kind, soft man. That's why he had to look so tough, because he was so kind, he would get stepped on... If there was one black chick in the audience, he'd always go home with her. Somehow he'd always have her up by his organ...by the end of the evening, she'd be up sitting on his stool. He just loved black women... He was the blues: he lived it, and he believed it, and he got caught in that web and he couldn't break out. And it killed him... He was just living the blues life: singing' the blues and drinkin' whiskey. That's what all blues guys did."

Tom Constanten:
"Pigpen's father was a blues DJ who went by the name 'Cool Breeze'. Pigpen had an encyclopedic knowledge of all the blues artists, and Pigpen was a remarkable blues singer. The world never got to see the full measure of Pigpen. He could do so many things - he was so deep, so broad. I used to room with him on the road and I shared a house with him in Novato. I mean you'd look at him and see this Hell's Angel sort of character who sings this narrow band of music, and he was really into so many more things. Pigpen had a different inner and outer image. While his outer image was kind of like Pirate Pete who would shoot his gun at your feet to make you dance, yet he was also the guy who brought a portable chess game along on the road because he liked to play."

Ned Lagin:
"I was very surprised at who Pigpen actually turned out to be, given what I had seen of him... I thought Pigpen would probably be on the opposite side of the planet from me, blues tough, but he turned out to be a very sweet person. To him, I was one of those whiz-kid rocket scientist genius kids that he always wanted to meet, but was on a different school bus going to a different place... But we could sit together and play piano together and hang out together. I think there was a great sensitivity in Pigpen that was the opposite of his down & dirty Lovelight personality."

Pigpen:
"Can't think what to write, but there's an ant hobbling around on this table. Absquatulate with the funds, will ya? Had any prune-tang lately? There's a broken helicopter outside the door, looking bum-tripped after having fallen down on Happy Land St. and belonging to the people who work in the hangar next door. Poot, still at a loss. I like fun and making people happy. Sue just loves my blue bow."

Bob Seidemann:
"It was obvious to everybody Pigpen was dying. I photographed him a few days before he died and he was so weak he had to be helped from the front door of his place to the car. I wanted to do one more picture of Pig with the Dead, so I picked him up and we drove out to Bolinas where they were rehearsing. I said, 'Look, I've got Pig here. Let's go outside and do a picture.' And everybody just said, 'Uh, no, Bob. Thumbs down.' So I put Pig back in the car and on the way back he said, 'Seidemann, will you take my picture?'... It was a sad moment when those cats wouldn't do it, and I had to drag Pig back to his apartment."

Here's one of Pigpen's last songs, called No Tomorrow. (Sorry about the poor quality.)

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And here's Robert Petersen's poem for Pigpen, written in 1973:

& pigpen died

my eyes tequila-tortured
4 days mourning
lost another fragment
of my own self
knowing
the same brutal
night-sweats & hungers
he knew
the same cold fist
that knocked him down
now clutching furiously
at my gut

shut my eyes
& see him standing
spread-legged
on the stage of the world
the boys prodding him
egging him on
he telling all he ever knew
or cared to know

mike hand cocked like
a boxer's
head throwed back
stale whiskey blues
many-peopled destinations
neon rainy streets
& wilderness of airports
thousands maybe millions
loved him
were fired instantly
into forty-five minutes of
midnight hour
but when he died
he was thin, sick, scared
and alone

like i said to laird
i just hope he didn't hurt
too much
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Kochman
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 08, 2010 7:48 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Very cool! Thanks for the insight here.
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skobud
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 08, 2010 11:04 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

RIP BlueRon...
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snow_and_rain
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 08, 2010 11:05 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Cool stuff LiA. Thanks. I love watching that version of Easy Wind from Festival Express. That movie is a treasure trove of good material.
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