Who was Moondog?: Moondog–real name Louis Thomas Hardin–was an American avant garde composer who got his start in New York City in the 1940s. He would stand on the corner of Sixth Avenue and 54th street (later on known by denizens as ‘Moondog’s Corner’) and sell or give away his numerous works of art (poetry, essays, sheet music, and recordings). While doing so, he would wear a viking outfit (strange garbs, a horned helmet, and even a spear).
Oh, and he was also blind (from the age of 16).
His work has been adapted and performed by countless orchestras over the years (his compositions transcribed from brail to traditional sheet music). However, these fully-realized versions of his compositions–being products of decades of perseverance (on Moondog’s part)–are not always accurate representations of his signature sound. He achieved this sound on the streets of New York City, playing homemade instruments (of his own invention)–the encompassing sound of the city (car horns, foghorns, trains, etc) providing an atmosphere largely unattainable by live orchestras. A lot of Moondog’s performances were never recorded (at least in the early days); you just had to be there.
He moved to Germany in 1974–where he remained for the rest of his life. He died of heart failure in 1999 at the age of 83.
Interesting Fact: In the 1950s, a disc jockey in Cleveland–who was a big fan of Moondog’s music–starting using his music as the ‘theme’ for his radio show. He even named the show “The Moondog House”. All of this he did without Moondog’s permission. Eventually, some of Moondog’s loyal followers (in New York City) became aware of this and convinced him to take it to court. Though his work was not protected by copyright, he won the case and was awarded $6,000 in personal damages. Obviously, the disc jockey’s show had to be completely reimagined.
Recommended listening: The entire 1969 self-titled album “Moondog”.