[Natalie Merchant and Jimmie Dale Gilmore – Photograph by Allen Ginsberg]
Natalie Merchant and Jimmie Dale Gilmore today on The Allen Ginsberg Project.
This photograph was taken back in 1995 in New York City at the Tibet House Benefit at Carnegie Hall, organized by Philip Glass, which featured, not only them (all three plus Allen), but also, David Byrne, Spalding Gray, Katell Keinig, Ashley MacIsaac, and the Gyuto Monks (Gyuto Monks Tantric Choir).
[Nathalie Merchant – Photograph by Allen Ginsberg]
“Allen baby, why so jaded/have the boys all grown up and their beauty faded?” – Those lines, from “Hey, Jack Kerouac”, (on Natalie Merchant (and 10,000 Maniacs) 1987 In My Tribe album), written before she had met and gotten to know Allen, came back to haunt her. Allen, understandably. chided her, but she continued to sing the song (not least because she loved the poignancy and strength of the rhyme there).
Here’s her and the band performing it (her paean to Kerouac) in Milan in that year (1987)
Here‘s her from the 10,000 Maniacs MTV Unplugged concert
From Dinitia Smith’s review of “Planet News”, the 1998 celebration for Allen at New York’s Cathedral of St John the Divine, in the New York Times:
“A highlight was the pop star Natalie Merchant, who came in late and breathless from her subway ride and sat down at the grand piano on the stage to sing “King of May” from her new CD, “Orphelia”, which she wrote for Ginsberg.
Then standing with her back to the audience and facing the altar of the cathedral. Ms Merchant sang a tender Latin ode a cappella while the crowd sat very still.”
[Eric Drooker – illustration used for Planet News: Allen Ginsberg Memorial at The Cathedral Chutch of St John the Divine, New York, May 14 1998]
“Natalie Merchant and The Influence of the Beat Generation“, a brief review by a member (the president, no less!) of the Natalie Merchant fan-club can be read – here
Allen, likewise, took Jimmie Dale Gilmore by surprise. Perhaps expecting some fossilized Beat icon – “But he was so wonderful and sweet-natured”. “He can be real crusty and cutting to the quick of the truth”, Gilmore declares, “That offends some people, but he is just telling the truth.” – “Ginsberg and all the early Beats were a big influence on me.”
Allen returned the favor, once writing him a fan-letter, praising the singer as “so American and so delicate all at once”
That “American-ness” and that “delicacy” may be experienced here (in a moving performance of one of his signature tunes, “Dallas“),
and here‘s another version of that song (this time with his group, The Flatlanders)
and in this, clearly-Buddhist-inspirational, tune (actually written by his band-mate, fellow Flatlander, and long-time friend, Butch Hancock) – “My Mind’s Got A Mind of Its Own“
and, (why not?), another popular one, “Tonight I Think I’m Gonna Go Downtown”
Here’s Natalie Merchant and Jimmie Dale Gilmore singing together
Two songbirds caught in Allen’s camera.