April 10, 2017

"He can't sing, or he can’t really play. Picasso spent 40 years trying to get as simple as that."

Said John Lennon about David Peel, quoted in the Rolling Stone obituary for David Peel, a New York City street character who lived to be 71:
The singer, born David Rosario, first came to notoriety in the late Sixties when he and his band the Lower East Side – named after the New York City region where they routinely performed on the streets – scored an offbeat hit with "I Like Marijuana," off the group's 1968 debut Have a Marijuana....

Peel and the Lower East Side's first studio album, 1970's The American Revolution, also boasted pro-pot tracks like "Legalize Marijuana" and "I Want to Get High," but also examined more social issues of the era, including his anti-Vietnam War stance ("I Want to Kill You," "Hey, Mr. Draft Board") and a song about "bad cops" ("Oink, Oink").
John Lennon sang about David Peel in a song called "New York City":
"Up come a man with a guitar in his hand / Singing, 'Have a marijuana if you can' / His name was David Peel / And we found he was real/He sang, 'The Pope smokes dope every day' / Up come a policeman, shoved us to the street / Singing, 'Power to the People today.'"
Listen to the John Lennon song here. Here's the audio of David Peel singing "I Like Marijuana." It's not good and I don't think it was ever intended to be good, just kind of fun and stupid, which expresses the essence of marijuana, no? Here's a clip of Peel singing "Marijuana," which I'm linking to only because something horrible becomes visible at 0:58. Here's Peel explaining himself and showing off a hippie style of speaking in 1979. Before clicking, just stop and think how you would answer the question "Who are you?" in the style of a hippie:

Was your answer weirder/funnier? Also: Were you around in NYC in the 1970s? I was! If you were, do you remember seeing Peel? I don't, but that doesn't mean I didn't. I saw a lot of the old street characters of New York back then.

Here's the NYT obituary:
Peel — a reference to banana peel, once thought to induce a marijuana-like high — was not his name. He was born David Michael Rosario. According to his F.B.I. file, he was born on Aug. 3, 1942, in Manhattan to Puerto Rican parents. His father, Angel Perez, was a restaurant worker; his mother, Esther Rosario, was a homemaker....

Mr. Peel grew up in Midwood, Brooklyn, and served two years in the Army, which stationed him in Alaska. A fellow serviceman from New York excited him with tales of the developing folk scene in Greenwich Village, and after completing his military service he made his way to the neighborhood....

The somewhat mysterious album title “Have a Marijuana” intentionally repeated an error in a Time magazine article in April 1968 about a large Yippie demonstration at Grand Central Terminal, where a police officer had spotted Mr. Peel and asked him to sing a few songs to keep the crowd happy.

“They poured into the vast main concourse of Manhattan’s Grand Central Station 3,000 strong, wearing their customary capes, gowns, feathers and beads,” the magazine wrote. “They tossed hot cross buns and firecrackers, and floated balloons up toward the celestial blue ceiling. They hummed the cosmic ‘Ommm,’ snake-danced to the tune of ‘Have a Marijuana,’ and proudly unfurled a huge banner emblazoned with a lazy ‘Y.’ ”
Time Magazine, misreporting since at least 1968.


Tank said...

"...something horrible..."

OK, that was funny.

And horrible.

Jeff Gee said...

Jeffrey Lewis makes a pretty decent case for David Peel as the link (or anyway a link) between the hippies and the punks in the course of his epic (9 and a half minutes!)History of Punk on the Lower East Side medley. This is way more fun than anything DP recorded, and there are no visible shorts.

Fernandinande said...

"Two people in Florida reported eating some of the salad before the bat was found."

The bat can't sing or play, being dead, and is therefore even simpler than Peel or Picasso.

bagoh20 said...

The difference between talented simplicity and simplicity without talent may just be marketing. Nobody knew this better than John Lennon and Picasso.

bagoh20 said...

There were two strains of hippies: the hedonists and the angry hedonists. Some couldn't decide.

khematite said...

Preceding David Peel, and arising from the same Lower East Side milieu, were the Fugs--just quite a bit more talented and much, much funnier.


madAsHell said...

He can't sing, or he can’t really play. Picasso spent 40 years trying to get as simple as that.

Hilarious!! I'm sooooo stealing that.

Fritz said...

When I started reading it, I thought it was going to be another Bob Dylan post.