Monk and Geronimo

Thelonious Monk and Allen Ginsberg, Monterey, CA, 1963 – Photograph (c) Jim Marshall

Geronimo (Goyathlay) – Medicine Man and Chiricahua Apache leader – Photograph by Frank A Rinehart, 1898

It’s the anniversary today (17th of February) of two legendary American heroes –
Thelonious Monk and Geronimo – both died on this historic day.

For Thelonious Monk (1917-1982) on the Allen Ginsberg Project – see our postings here and here

Here’s a little example of Monk’s wizardry (from 1970, filmed playing his classic composition from the ’40’s, “‘Round Midnight“)

For Geronimo (1829-1909), (aka Goyathlay – one-who-yawns), here’s a valuable short documentary

A longer documentary can be found here and here – (“created using the words of Geronimo taken unedited and unchanged from the interviews conducted with him by S.N. Barrett and Asa Deluge (the son of Whoa, Chief of the Nedni Apaches”)


Here’s Geronimo’s Medicine Song. (transcribed and translated by  Natalie Curtis):

“The song that I will sing is an old song, so old that none knows who made it. It has been handed down through generations and was taught to me when I was but a little lad. It is now my own song. It belongs to me. This is a holy song (medicine-song), and great is its power. The song tells how, as I sing, I go through the air to a holy place where Yusun (The Supreme Being) will give me power to do wonderful things. I am surrounded by little clouds, and as I go through the air I change, becoming spirit only.”

O, ha le/ O, ha le!/Awbizhaye/Shichl hadahiyago niniya/O, ha le/O, ha le
Tsago degi naleya/Ah – yu whi ye!/O, ha le/O, ha le!

O, ha le/O, ha le!/Through the air/I fly upon the air/Towards the sky, far, far, far,/O, ha le/O, ha le!/There to find the holy place,/Ah, now the change comes o’er me!/O, ha le/O, ha le!


We’ll conclude with a sweet Gary Snyder poem ( a slice of pleasing domesticity, evoking Geronimo’s name) –  “Changing Diapers’:

How intelligent he looks!/on his back/both feet caught in my hand/his glance set sideways,/on a giant poster of Geronimo/with a Sharp’s repeating rifle on his knee.
I open, wipe, he doesn’t even notice/nor do I./Baby legs and knees/toes like little peas/little wrinkles, good-to-eat,/eyes bright, shiny ears,/chest swelling drawing air,
No trouble, friend,/you and me and Geronimo/ are men.

& more Monk (last year’s astonishingly re-discovered 1968 concert at Palo Alto High School. His son (T.S.Monk) and promoter (teen promoter!) Danny Scheer tell the story:

Monk and Geronimo – An unlikely conjunction (perhaps) but a fortuitous one!

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