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The Fugs' Ed Sanders remembers bandmate Tuli Kupferberg

July 13, 2010 |  2:18 pm

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When I heard Monday that Tuli Kupferberg of the Fugs had died in New York at age 86, I immediately flashed back to a winter’s day in 1987 when I wended my way across the state to the recording studio near Woodstock, N.Y., where the influential underground band from the ‘60s had recently recorded its latest album, the rock opera “Star Peace.”

The studio was housed in a remote farmhouse surrounded by a cornfield, and I had to trudge through several inches of snow to the door. Inside, however, it was comfortably warm in the NRS Studio, where I met with Ed Sanders, who had started the group with Kupferberg back in 1964.

Kupferberg, Sanders noted, wasn’t much for making the schlep north that took me three or four hours, as I recall, so I never got to meet him. Knowing that Kupferberg was much older than most rock musicians of the day when the band got going, I asked Sanders just how old his bandmate was.

 “Let’s just say he’s old enough for Medicare,” Sanders replied. “He’s in his 60s.” Actually, he was 63, but authoritative biographical info on somebody like Kupferberg, who lived on the margins of pop music, was harder to come by than it is today in the Internet age.

On Tuesday, Sanders e-mailed me about the passing of his friend of more than four decades.
A songwriter, poet, author, cartoonist and all-around sociopolitical provocateur, Kupferberg died in a New York hospital around noon on Monday, following a pair of strokes last year that left him physically debilitated, but not without his creative drive.

“It was peaceful," Sanders wrote. "They unhooked him from life support; his family was with him. I'd seen him on Thursday, his face was placid, he was all doped up on Valium; but he needed a respirator, though his blood pressure was stable, his heartbeat waxed from normal to 'irregular.’”

Then Sanders brought up “Morning, Morning,” a folky Fugs song, later covered by Richie Havens, that Kupferberg wrote, somehow combining a bleak existential outlook on life with a begrudging appreciation of its gifts. It begins: “Morning, morning/Feel so lonesome in the morning/Morning, morning/Morning brings me grief.”

“I sang ‘Morning Morning’ to him,” Sanders wrote, “leaning down close to an ear, and a few minutes later I noticed a tear at the corner of his closed eye.

“Oi.”

--Randy Lewis


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