His name is Louis Thomas Hardin, but everyone knows him as MoonDog, and that is exactly how he wanted to be known for. Blind since the age of sixteen this man could not be stopped by such tragedy provoked by some dynamite during the war times and just kept going. He not only invented several instruments as he was a theoretician and a poet that spent his life standing in 6th Avenue with either 53rd or 54th street, sometimes busking for some coins with his music, others just existing in his viking clothes. He never really was a homeless but the streets of New York were his real inspiration. For all this, he is the Viking of 6th Avenue!
I came across this artist when scrolling down the right side of Youtube looking for something new. What stopped me? The face of Santa Claus with his eyes closed on a dark background. The name of the clip “The German Years 1977-1999”. As I clicked it, “The Bird’s Lament” starts unveiling itself in front of my eyes with saxophone lines drifting with each others in perfect harmony. As in many other works of his one can simply denote all the urban sound from the screaming woman to the foghorns, that make his sonority as weird as it is brilliant.
His musical career was not known for many of the passersby who ignored a person seen as an idol for many around the World. The first instrument he made was a drum kit made out of a carton box. One could see that such talent at the age of five was not regular. And that is the instrument he played until he was blind at the age of 16 due to an incident with dynamite. At this point many of us would probably give up on the music world, however this man decided to go further and learned how to train his “musical ear” as well as his composition techniques from braille manuals.
His name only changed to MoonDog after he arrived in New York and drifted his musical style towards a more Jazz oriented one with Charlie Parker as one of his great influences and started using urban sounds as part of his music as well. More than that he derived his artistic name from a real dog, that barked at the moon as he had never seen before. I believe that in a way thats how he felt as a musician, left alone to fight the society in a counter cultural way while having to struggle against daily situations that the majority of us does not have to face. He had no shame in doing what he was doing maybe because he doesn’t remember how mean can a “despise look” be.
From just another Busker to the Viking of 6th Avenue it was just a matter of time and recognition that this man did not needed from the streets since he already got it by 1950’s from famous artists and music teachers like Charlie Parker or Benny Goodman. In 1969, in the middle of one of the greatest Musical Eruptions ever seen, Moondog releases his first official work under his own name and manages to be in the 6th place in the US Ranking.
It was however in Europe that he finally got the well deserved recognition and due to that there is where he spent the last years of his life. Above we have one of the his best compilations and the exact video that got me addicted to this artist on Youtube. A documentary will be released this Year after the book was written 10 years ago and got a lot of attention. People will never forget such a character that even if not like for his music, poetry or life philosophy has to be respected for the work and the revolution he put forward in the music industry.