Friday, November 9, 2012


John Lurie

"Twelfth proposition"

Twelfth proposition, that all things must pass. John Lurie has been ill for a few years now, and he has trouble playing his horn these days, so much so that the Lounge Lizards are probably on indefinite hiatus. It therefore now seems that the amazing last two albums, Voice of Chunk and Queen of All Ears, are the end points of an astonishing and perennially underrated musical career, a musical career that at least for me was an influential thing, a career that has made me a better writer, in a way, because of how it has reminded me to stay loose, to allow language and inspiration to flourish without getting precious or exercising too much control. That said, I want to append one last morsel of story. A couple of years ago, in the course of speaking in public about how much I love the Lounge Lizards, I got to know Lurie a little bit, and one night we did a reading together, on the Lower East Side. As part of this reading series (Happy Endings), each reader was meant to try something that he had never done in public before. This was hard work for Lurie, because he has done a lot of things in public, and probably reading from his memoir-in-progress was the thing he had never done in public before. But after he read from his memoir, which was enthusiastically admired by the crowd, he got out his harmonica. Harmonica was among John's first instruments, and he's an extremely good harmonica player, and for a couple of minutes, despite his not great physical condition, he played one of the most heartrending and beautiful harmonica solos I've ever heard, after which he stumbled out of the room and literally collapsed in the hall. He said to me later that it might have been the last time he ever plays music in public. A respectful silence is probably the only way to greet this news. It's sad, for sure, very sad. Still, I feel lucky to have been there. By its nature, live music has only its immediate duration. After that comes the respectful silence. With Lurie and the Lounge Lizards, the music is in the province of memory now, and that's where it's kept alive. A real shame for those who won't get to see them play. Memory is faulty, full of mistakes, full of longing, but still interacts with music in a flexible way; memory is kind of like music itself; like jazz, it's unpredictable, and memory gives musicians something to work toward, as it also gives writers something to write about.

Rick Moody
from ON CELESTIAL MUSIC and other adventures in listening
(Back Bay Books, 2012)


John Lurie (born December 14, 1952) is an American actor, musician, painter, director and producer. He is co-founder of The Lounge Lizards, a jazz ensemble. Lurie has acted in 19 films including Stranger than Paradise and Down by Law, composed and performed music for 20 television and film works, and he produced and starred in Fishing with John, a 1991 television series. In 1996 his soundtrack for Get Shorty was nominated for a Grammy Award. For five years he appeared in the HBO television show Oz.

Since 2000, Lurie has suffered from an illness diagnosed as chronic Lyme disease and has refocused his attention on painting. His first major show was in May 2004 in New York City. His primitivist art works have shown in galleries around the world. His painting Bear Surprise became an internet meme in Russia in 2006. (wikipedia) 

john lurie photo : john back