A Boho Hobo Street Fixture’s Half-Century Compiled at Last


By now, Moondog’s well-cut boho/hobo bio sounds more like lore than ever. Born Louis Harding, blind in the Midwest, he played the tom-tom at the Arapaho Sun Dance, moved to New York, tried—unsuccessfully—to kiss Arturo Toscanini’s hand, and set up an unofficial residency on Sixth Avenue and 54th Street, where he recited poetry and played music. In a Viking’s helmet and a cape. Which is less funny when you remember that he didn’t know what he looked like. Not that he ever made huge changes in his original sound—”maximum effect but with minimum means.” The music on this first compilation spanning his 50-odd-year career sounds practically arcane: quasi-modal miniatures and amateur jazz-brut colored with the pretense of city-as-primitive cartoon, skyscrapers stacked like totem poles, the rhythm of the streets as tribal thump, the pre-digital NYSE as a cauldron of war whoops. Moondog projected a vibrant city that was forbidden even before his color got bleached out with the jizzmoppers by way of urban renewal.