The Songpoet


The Songpoet

The Songpoet dives deep into Greenwich Village folk musician Eric Andersen's conflicts of career, ego, relationships, and the unrelenting pursuit of purpose while exploring what it takes to keep moving forward.

AIRED: April 02, 2021 | 1:50:41

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[birds singing]

Ian MacFadyen: I met Eric Andersen, I guess,

about 15 years ago.

And I already knew his music from his Greenwich Village

period in the 1960s.

Eric sometimes says, "Life is 90% maintenance," you know,

shopping, cooking, doing the laundry, but that other 10%

which has been the creative endeavor that has made him the

man he is today, that 10% is the crucial part of his life.

He asked me to take a look at his archive, hundreds of

journals and notebooks as well as tens of thousands of

photographs which he hadn't looked at in decades.

As I subsequently discovered,his interest in music, writing,

and art were so strong that he simply could not do what his

parents would have perhaps wanted him to do: progressing

through college, getting a job, having a career.

That was a possibility for him, but he turned against it.

He realizes that he can't give up the dream.










Eric Andersen: In 1963, I had big dreams.

After I quit college, I hitched to San Francisco with my

notebooks and my guitar and came to North Beach

to meet the Beats.

Eric: That's where I first heard Allen Ginsberg, Lawrence

Ferlinghetti, Neal Cassady, Michael McClure.

They taught me new ways to see and a new way to live.

Their words have freed andinspired my own writing with as

much intensity as any reality that surrounds me.

Back in the Coffee Gallery whereI ended up playing, people read

poetry but mostly performed music and sang.

I played alternate Wednesdays and Fridays.

A young Janis Joplin drove her Vespa over on Tuesdays and

parked it by the front window.

She'd take the guitar off her back and come in and sing.

On nights I didn't perform, I played my guitar outside on

corners and in doorways.

Back then, songwriters weren't ashamed to be broke, and being

poor wasn't a crime.

It was a great exciting time and I didn't ever wanna go back to

that other life.

Eric: 18 November, 1963,Dear Bill, I first saw her at a

coffee house.

Her look went through me and I exploded into 4th of July.

Somehow, I knew something would come of this

communication of eyes.


♪ The night is the time for my returning. ♪

♪ My lover's heart beats to-- ♪

♪ I nestle up close by for to listen. ♪

♪ To know again the things it knows so well. ♪

Debbie Green: He had a James Dean kind of lanky, suffering,

kind of, you know.

Of course, very handsome, poor guy.

And just fun.

We had some great times.

Ian: The letters in the archive when he first met her

and fell in love with her.

Two lovers, two musicians, two writers.

He was completely taken by her.

♪ She can harbor me before tomorrow's journey. ♪

Eric: Dear Bill, it was evidence my street urchin

destiny was in her hands.

Debbie: Eric was living in North Beach.

The Beat Generation had happenedvery recently there and Eric was

very aware of that.

Eric was, at the time, 19, heading for 20, bursting with

creative energy.

Eric: Debbie runs a coffee house in Berkeley.

The people here make our pickings seem like we play

plastic Gene Autry model guitars.

However, they can't match our creativity.

I was an outsider and unliked, unacceptable.

Tom Paxton: The autumn of '63 we were in Los Angeles playing

at the Ash Grove when Kennedy was assassinated.

We drove up to Berkeley.

Debbie Green had called me, Iguess, and said, would you like

to play at this coffee house that she was running in

Berkeley, and we said, "Sure."

So we went up and we met her boyfriend, Eric Andersen,

who was playing.

And we went over to see him.

I assumed that it was, you know, a folk music gig and nothing

more but, of course, I came to learn that Eric was fascinated

by Beat poetry.

We became good friends and when we left we said to Eric, you

know, "If you ever get back to New York, look us up."


Debbie: He went down to New York.

It wasn't long thereafter that I sold the coffee place and we

just ended up on Tom's doorstep.

Ian: In 1963, a special Greenwich Village issue of

"Cosmopolitan" came out and itsays Greenwich Village offered a

shelter within which identities may be tried and discarded.

In a world of rapidly changing values, there are few places

left where confused young people can go to find or lose


male: The Village has a life and language all its own.

If you dig it, you're hip.

If you don't, man, you're square.

Coffee houses, the neighborhood bars, are bohemian where the

strongest potion is coffee and the coffee house poet is the

specialty of the house.

male: What must a poet look like?

Should he have long whitehair parted down the middle and

publish yearly homey verse?

Tom: The coffee houses started having poetry readings

and some of the Beat poets would use the "F" word and this, in

1959 and '60, was enough to bring crowds from New Jersey.

Happy Traum: We all read "On the Road."

We all read, "Howl," Ginsberg and Kerouac, Gary Snyder, or

some of the other Beat poets.

It had to have some influence on us.

male: All that road going,and all the people dreaming and

the immensity of it.

Roland Van Campenhout: Especially the work of Kerouac

makes you feel like they stand on by the side of the road and

hitchhike and see the world.

You're not trapped in your daily routine like you go to school,

you get a job, you do this job until you're 64

and then life can begin.

But then your life is gone.

male: Evening Star must be drooping and shedding her

sparkler dims on the prairie,which is just before the coming

of complete night that blesses the earth, darkens all the

rivers, cups the peaks, and falls the final shore in and

nobody, nobody knowswhat's gonna happen to anybody.

Besides, the forlorn rags of growing old.

Roland: It makes you feel like a nomad.

It makes you feel like things were changing for the better.

male: How wonderful on a journey to find a place where

the eyes can rest, the blood refresh itself.

Thank you.

Tom: Originally, they wereusing folk singers interspersed

between the poets, but by '60, the trend was more toward the

folk singers than the poets and by the end of '60, you didn't

even hear any poets anymore.

♪ Is the grass still growing green upon the meadow? ♪

♪ Is the sand still soft where the tide rivers flow? ♪

♪ Do the redwoods ask you where I've been? ♪

♪ Do they ask you where went their only friend? ♪

John Sebastian: The audience changed from this

poet-friendly group.

♪ Please tell them they taught me what I know. ♪

John: Now we've drawn these folkies into the area.

Greenwich Village now becomes really kind of roiling and

boiling with influences.

♪ From nowhere your face was at my door. ♪

Happy: The Village inthose days was a melting pot of

singer-songwriters, peoplecoming from all over the country

to find their place in this burgeoning new art form

which was folk music.

It was a little competitive.

People were trying to get into the clubs.

There was the Gaslight Café, there was the Café Wha,

there was The Bitter End.

John: A lot of thecoffee houses just had Folger's

crystals poured in, squirt whipped cream on top, and hey,

it's a cappuccino.

Peggy Duncan-Garner: I started out waitressing at

Gerde's Folk City and then went to bartending.

Well, it was the '60s when I started there and just the

environment of, you know, wethought we were gonna change the

world, type of thing, you know?

That things were gonna get better,

which obviously they didn't.

People were going there 'cause they knew they would

hear good music.

Danny Fields: All you had to do was bring a guitar or a

little band and you could do original songs.

And that was a new thing in the whole world of performing.

And they all were in one place at one time.

You'd just hear all these people with all their songs.

You'd hear so much music, and it was just so available

and socially so then you slept with them.

Clearly, that was a big part of it.

John: Some of theseperformers were pretty riveting.

You could be really gut-punchedby the first time you ever heard

Bob Dylan play "The Times, They Are a-Changing,"

and that was happening in these coffee houses.


♪ They see my face in the rain that's falling freely. ♪

Eric: When I first got off of the bus, my head was filled

with hero's dreams.

♪ Do you taste my love in a glass of wine? ♪

Eric: My eyes were runningover with a lifetime of memories

that were only six months old.

♪ Upon this darkened roadway your love will always shine ♪

♪ for today is the highway and tomorrow is the time. ♪

Tom: Eric came to New York and he slept on our sofa

a couple nights.

He was immediately one of the gang.

We had a rolling scene that was based either in the Gaslight,

the room upstairs over the Gaslight that had a permanent

penny ante poker game going, orThe Kettle of Fish Bar next to

the Gaslight at street level.

We had a table in the front which was kind of permanently

occupied by Bob Dylan.

Phil Ochs and Dylan would be going back and forth.

You know, Dylan was always giving Phil a terrible time.

You know, when it became yourturn to go do your set, you went

and got your guitar and you did your three-song set, then you

either went back to the poker game or you went back

to The Kettle of Fish.

And Eric was part of that.

♪ Come to my bedside, my darling. ♪

♪ Come over here.

♪ Close the door.

♪ Lay your body soft and close beside me. ♪

♪ And drop your petticoat upon the floor. ♪♪

Eric: Winter of '64, I finally hit the Greenwich

Village songwriter scene.

Paxton lent me a house and Phil Ochs immediately

took me under his wing and acted as my older brother

and guide.

Debbie: Phil would alwaysplay us, you know, his new song

and then Eric would play hisnew song for Phil, and they had

their competition and theirsparring and, you know, it was a

joke too, their sparring, but it was also real, at first.

We were buddies, you know.

Eric: He showed me around the streets like I was the new kid

on the block and introduced me to everybody that was anybody.

Sonny Ochs: Phil talked to Eric a lot.

He took him around, introducedhim to people, and, you know, he

was very, very good to Ericand took him up to "Broadside."

♪ Your lips have whispered wisdom that is timeless ♪

♪ 'bout life and death

♪ and things I've never known. ♪

Sonny: All of the performersthat were big in the Village in

the '60s went to "Broadside Magazine" to have their songs


And I called the group of musicians, I called them

"Three Chord Wonders."

It was people like Paxton and mybrother Phil and Dylan, and Eric

went up and they had areel-to-reel Wollensak and they

would record the songs of these new musicians, and Sis would

transcribe the songs, put themdown on paper, and then put them

into the magazine.

Eric: This is a song Iwrote--I wrote to Woody Guthrie,

called "My Land's a Good Land."


♪ My land is a rich land. ♪

♪ Its hills and its valleys abound. ♪

♪ Its highways go to many good places ♪

♪ where many good people are found. ♪

♪ Where many good people are found. ♪

♪ My land is a sweet land.

♪ It's a sweet land, so I've heard. ♪

♪ Its song is made up of many men's hands ♪

♪ and a throat of a hummingbird. ♪

♪ And a throat of a hummingbird. ♪

Happy: Sis and Gordon started"Broadside" to fulfill the idea

that songs should be for social change and for social justice

and the other things thatpeople were writing about then.

♪ And it ends where the skies are blue. ♪

♪ And it ends where the skies are blue. ♪

♪ My land is a good land.

♪ Its grasses made of rainbow blades. ♪

♪ Its fields and its rivers were blessed by God. ♪

♪ It's a good land, so they say. ♪

♪ It's a good land, so they say. ♪

Sonny: 1964 was just a stunning year for both of them

because that was the year thatboth of them were at the Newport

Folk Festival and they actually, when Phil was on stage, he

invited Eric up onstage and they sang "I Should Have Known

Better," the Beatles' song and then when they did the "Yay,

yay, yeah," part, you know, theaudience was screaming like--as

though they were the Beatles.

It was hysterical.

And then when the song was over, they got a standing ovation.

So Phil was just a little aheadof Eric in terms of recognition

so he took him onstage with him, which I'm sure gave Eric

a boost, you know.

So they had wonderful adventures together.

Happy: I first saw Ericbefore I met him when I happened

to look into a coffee house where there was folk music and

in those days they used to have--it was like they were

storefronts so you could look through the window and see who

was playing and that was, I guess, the kind of

come-on to the tourists.

And there was this tall, skinny guy with a guitar and a

harmonica rack, not lookingquite like anybody else that was

scuffling around the Village back then.


♪ In the cattails, a maid did dwell. ♪

Eric: February 2, 1964.

♪ She sang sweet songs but she loved as well. ♪

Eric: It's late.

It's that time when my head is very groggy.

Yet at the same time, very clear.

Fatigue bogs me down at this hour.

But there's always something to keep me going, a-kicking

and hungry for more life.

Tom: I called Maynard Solomonat Vanguard and said, "Why don't

you come and hear Eric at the Gaslight?"

And he came down and he signed Eric to a contract

with Vanguard right away.

I called Robert Shelton who wrote folk music for "The New

York Times" and said, "Come and hear."

So he came over to Gerde's andheard Eric and he wrote a piece

about him in "The New York Times," at which point I

suddenly said, "Wait a minute.

Wait a minute. I don't have a contract.

Robert Shelton isn't writing about me.

What's wrong with this picture?

Arthur Levy: Eric was signed to Vanguard Records.

He had been published in "Broadside."

He was as high up the echelon asanybody could be in those days.

And Eric Andersen was part of that group of people

who defined what folk music was.

He was it.

Sonny: Everybody considers himself as a singer or a

songwriter, but there are not that many

who are real--who stand out.


Eric: I think this is themost secure and happy I've ever

been in my entire life.

People like me and appreciate me around here.

I feel needed in a way that I never felt before.

I am accepted.

Eric: This song, I wrote to a friend of mine who was down in

Mississippi last summer and because I didn't get down to

Mississippi myself, I thought I'd write a song about

coming back.

It's called, "Take Off Your Thirsty Boots."

♪ You've long been on the open road. ♪

♪ You've been sleepin' in the rain. ♪

♪ From dirty words and muddy cells, ♪

♪ your clothes are smeared and stained. ♪

♪ But the dirty words, the muddy cells will soon ♪

♪ be judged insane.

♪ So only stop to rest yourself 'til you go off again. ♪

♪ So take off your thirsty boots and stay for a while. ♪

♪ Your feet are hot and weary from a dusty mile. ♪

♪ And maybe I can make you laugh, maybe I can try. ♪

♪ I'm just lookin' for the evening. ♪

♪ The morning in your eyes. ♪


Happy: I think anybody who writes a history of the early

days of the folksinger-songwriters, if somebody

writes the songbook of that, I think "Thirsty Boots,"

it will be right up there in the top, I mean,

I can't imagine Eric couldgo out and sing "Thirsty Boots"

and not have the audience sing along with him.

People just know it.

Anthony DeCurtis: I remember hearing "Thirsty Boots"

on the radio.

It's a protest song in a way butit was a kind of--the appeal for

me was that it was a little bit sweeter, you know?

The fact of taking a standdidn't necessarily mean that you

gave up your humanity or that you dehumanized other people.

♪ From a dusty mile and maybe I can make you laugh, ♪

♪ maybe I can try.

♪ I'm just lookin' for the evening, ♪

♪ the morning in your eyes. ♪


[audience applauding]

Ian: He becomes recognized as a folk singer,

a folk singer-songwriter.


Ian: But Eric isn't occupying the folk terrain.

Within his journals andnotebooks there are lists of all

the different writers and books that he's reading.

Rimbaud and Hemingway and Ezra Pound and lists

of different music.

Studies in archeology and history,

painters and philosophy.

You don't really find it with any

of the other folk luminaries.

♪ Now your man done gone to the county farm. ♪

♪ Baby, please don't go.

Ian: He becomes an extremely well-read, erudite person but

he's also somebody who could hang out in completely

different cultural scenes.


♪ Land down low burning all night long. ♪

Arthur: He's one of the most complex figures that we have

in popular music.

Werner Meyer: He's a true poet.

When you listen to Eric's music, you know,

this is something real.

It's not to climb up in the charts.

It's a real thing.

He has to talk about it, and you feel that.

♪ Gonna hold your hand.

Arthur: There's nobody who's more well read and has a wider

background in poetry and jazz and classical music

and theater and film.

Werner: I was connectedwith Andy Warhol's movie mayhem

factory, this bizarre universe.

Brilliant maniacs all around you.

We would walk down the street.

Eric Andersen was on the street corner.

We thought, "Well, there's a movie star."

Danny: I was at the Figaro Café having a coffee or

something and this guy comes in, Danny Fields, who

later managed the Ramones.

He came in and sat down with me and we started talking.

And he said, "I'd like you to meet somebody, Andy Warhol."

So we chased him.

We saw he went into the Figaro.

We asked--forget this.

This is, like, mortifying.

We were young.

This is a long time--and we actually said to him, "Did you

ever hear of Andy Warhol?"

"Yes," and "He would love you in his movie."

Eric: I loved his work.

I really was fascinated by his art.

So I went up and I met Warhol inthis factory and so he asked if

we wanted to be in a movie.

My future wife, Debbie, and me, we did some screen tests

and then we did this kind of crazy film.


Danny: Andy was thrilled to have a recording star,

somebody who had a record was coming to him.

It was like a tribute to him that--he was going,

"I'm not worthy of this," almost.

It's like a total tribute to him.

It was very lovely.

And he really felt that way.

It wasn't--he was, like, "Wow."

He was like a kid.

Eric: He said, "I really can't say I've been doing much

except in this band.

Debbie: Jesus, my peace. Jesus, my peace.

Jesus, my peace. Jesus, my peace.

Jesus, my peace.

Eric: Like any AndyWarhol movie, it became quickly

apparent that Warhol's gift, really, was to create

a perfect vacuum.

And it was just kind of animprov, spontaneous, make it up

as you go along kind of movie, and the movie ended

when the film ran out.

And you could see the filmrunning, actually, on the screen

through the camera, just went, fluttered to white,

and that was it.


Ian: The Warhol thing to me is absolutely fascinating.

In the screen test film of Ericwith Debbie Green, his partner

and then his wife, all of DebbieGreen's attention is absolutely

fixated upon Eric.

But Eric isn't looking at her.

The camera's looking at him, she's looking at him.

He's negotiating a position between the camera

and the lover.

In a way this is what would happen with his songs, always

negotiating between the mediation of his work and his

absolute total desire to be in a loving relationship

with a woman.

I think it's kind of haunting.

Eric: At that time, I was under conflict of love versus

creativity, since both are so similar and requires such

constant attention.



♪ Take me to the night.

♪ I'm tipping topsy turvy, turning upside down. ♪

♪ Hold me tight and whisper what you wish ♪

♪ for there is no-one here around. ♪

♪ You may sing-song me sweet smiles regardless ♪

♪ of the city's careless frown. ♪

♪ Come watch the no colors fade, ♪

♪ blazing into petal sprays of violets of dawn. ♪


Eric: The poems of Rimbaud inspired me to write

"Violets of Dawn."

--wrapping her immense body into his arms, gathering the veils,

falling asleep from theexertion and waking at 12 noon.

The whole description of the coming of the dawn and chasing

it around and the goddess on the summit, you know.

Just--because the first time yousee the light of the sun is on a

high mountain, then it moves itsway down and scatters the gray.


♪ Some Prince Charming I'll be on two white steeds ♪

♪ to bring you dappled, diamond crowns. ♪

♪ And climb your tower, Sleeping Beauty, ♪

♪ 'fore you ever know I've left the ground. ♪

♪ You can wear a--

Lenny Kaye: I think the difference between musician

and poet is very, very small.

As a songwriter, you deal with words.

And words, even in their printed page, have melody and rhythm.

Eric's sense of image, "Violets of Dawn," such a beautiful

metaphor for life and hope and possibility.

Willie Nile: When I heard"Violets of Dawn," I just heard

something real special, you know?

Those lyrics, it's just--it'sa--that was a real epiphany for

a song like that to come to someone, in this case, Eric.

He wrote this beautifulmasterpiece of visionary poetry,

you know, with a Zen wink.

You know, it just helped me realize what you can do

with a guitar and a voice.


Arthur: I was at the NewportFolk Festival the summer of '65,

the summer of going electric.

The record companies were profoundly impacted.

Everybody--all the folk singerswere trying on different rhythm

section ideas from hard rockrhythm sections to blues rhythm

sections to just the bass player and a drummer, whatever, all

different combinations.

There was always conversationsof, "Wow, wouldn't it have been

great to hear 'The Times, They Are a-Changing,'

as an electric record?

Or to hear Phil Ochs as an electric record."

But that was never gonna happen.

But Eric did it.

He made that happen.

And it turned out to be a terrific record and you can

listen to it today and it just rocks.

♪ Will she love me when the dawn breaks? ♪

♪ When the shadows fly, and the shadows-- ♪

male: They didn't just add on to rhythm.

They re-recorded the songs.

And that's what made it great.

John: The British Invasionmade all of us learn that there

was a lot of money to be made.

male: I hear anyway that the four of you are to be

millionaires by the end of the year.

male: Oh, oh, that's nice.

male: Have you got time--have you got time to actually spend

this money?

male: What money?

male: Doesn't he give any to you?

male: No, no.

Anthony: And it seemed likeit's really hard to overestimate

the importance of the Beatles.

Anything connected to the Beatles was enormous.

Ian: Electric music, pop music, the Beatles

were all over the place.

The White album was on the horizon.

male: Was there any one keythat, you know, opened the door

to this tremendous success they now enjoy?

Brian Epstein: Not any one key, but a lot of things.

Now I believe that any success,solid success, is contributed to

by many factors and not one single thing.

You know, the Beatles aren't theBeatles either because of their

name or because of their haircuts, or any one.

Some factors are more important than others.

But everything has contributed,I think, with a lot of luck that

we've had, to make them the success that they are.

John: We were all learning about the Beatles, all right?

And the next thing we learned was they have this Lothario,

they have this puppet-master guy who knows all the right moves,

who's hip to the jive.

He's not like the old management teams.

male: 1964 was a highly successful year for you,

Mr. Epstein.

What is your prediction for 1965?

Brian: Well, fairly certain,I think, that some of the groups

that have been successful in the past are going to continue to

run very high indeed.

I, personally, expect to seethe emergence of one or two solo

balladeering-type artists.

I think some--there's going to be an injection of folk music

and, in general, I thinkthat the music scene will be as

lively as it has been.

I hope so, anyway.

♪ Oh, I see in your prison.

Arthur: Brian Epstein was one of the biggest managers in the

world, and he was really turned on by Eric's music.

For someone like Eric who stillcertainly was considered part of

the folk movement, that was as big a deal as there could be.

Eric: At first I was shocked that somebody who would manage

the Beatles would be interested in me.

So that's what was so excitingabout working with him, the idea

of working with him, 'cause it was gonna be an adventure.

♪ That is all and nothing more. ♪

Eric: He liked my writing.

I'd sing him songs over the phone.

He liked that.

Ian: Eric found a box and just said, "Oh, I don't know

where this came from."

We go through and there was amanila envelope in the bottom of

the box and I opened it and Ifound the notes and letters from

Brian Epstein to Eric.

There's eight in total, all from 1967.

If I can read this to you, there's a letter here.

It says, "To Eric Andersen, in thought.

All I can say is that I'm very happy at the prospect of being

your manager.

I think it's going to work.

If I was more of an optimist, which I nearly am, I'd say I

know it's going to.

It's not very easy to write to you and say how much it means,

except in case I've not already established my sincerity, I'd

like to think this will confirm it.

I very much doubt that after you, I'll manage another so

how's that for dedication?

Except I'm cool about it, man.

Really sincere and very seriously excited.

Love, and to Debbie, Brian."


♪ Outside the rain is falling, ♪

♪ the doorways all are filled. ♪

Eric: He was coming over to get me a record deal and I was

at the Philadelphia Folk Festival run by very hardcore

folk people.

Ken Goldstein, he ran this festival.

So we're standing there, and somebody's performing and

suddenly the show stops.

Ken Goldstein comes on, makes an announcement.

He says, you know, "I'm happy to announce that Brian Epstein

is dead."

And he's talking about how theBeatles had never done anything

for folk music, they're destroying music, they're--I

mean, it was this long, horrible speech, you know, and the

crowd's, like, egging him on, "Yay, you're right," you know,

"Great," you know, I mean.

So that's where me and folkmusic kind of took a departure.

♪ So much I can never say

of the ruins left behind. ♪

♪ Oh, my pockets, they are empty. ♪

♪ So much of my life.

♪ Time run like a freight train, ♪

♪ take me down the line.

Ian: Brian Epstein was absolutely, completely certain

that he and Eric were going to make incredible records

and tour.

The irony would not have beenlost on Robert Shelton and other

people that the very person hedescribed as the antidote to the

Beatles had just been signed by the Beatles manager.

I mean, this is a paradox too far, isn't it?

♪ Down the line.


Debbie: Brian wanted to make Eric, like, you know,

it was the next baby.

There's the Beatles and now he had Eric and he was gonna

do his thing.

There was no manager there for a while.

We were devastated.

Eric: In this world things are always coming to you and

things are always leaving.

So you can't get too overlyexcited about the good or overly

disappointed by the bad.

There must be a balance.

The trick is to find it.


♪ When I was just a young boy I didn't have a friend. ♪

♪ I was just a small toy passed from hand to hand. ♪

♪ Until she came along, my fire had no air to burn. ♪

♪ Until she came to me, I had nowhere to turn. ♪

Debbie: We decided to get married.

I think it was '68.


♪ Listen, but then I'll be alive. ♪

♪ That was just as good.

Debbie: And we went to my favorite place in the world on

top of Mount Tamalpais.

So we have this really romantic idea of how nice that's gonna

be, and David Blue shows up and gets Eric stoned.

So, here we are.

We've got somebody reading some beautiful lines and we're

sitting in a circle on the ground and there's about 12

people and I was just conscious of giving everybody

a good wedding.

And Eric, he's just stoned.

He was just gone.

He wasn't present.


male: One of the late Brian Epstein's last discoveries was

an American who sings of his many and varied experiences of

his travels across America, of his thoughts and feelings, of

his ambitions and frustrations,in other words, he sings about

all of us, about life.

Here is Eric Andersen.



Debbie: Eric was a ton of energy.

We were uptown, we were downtown.

We were here, we were there.

It was just a very fast-moving time.

Joni Mitchell was there,Jimi Hendrix used to come down.

Eric Clapton, Richie Havens was there.

We'd just bump into all these people.

♪ Washed in pale blues, your touch, ♪

♪ it harmonized with deep magentas. ♪

♪ It's so sad when lovers they must leave. ♪

Johnny Cash: Right now, we'dlike to introduce you to one of

those people that you don't hardly ever get to see on

television and we believethat they got something to say.

It might be, you know, might be worth listening to.

This young fellow, we've known for eight or ten years.

He's written some fine songs.

Make welcome, Eric Andersen.


♪ We were foolish like the flowers to think a love ♪

♪ like that, it could be ours. ♪

Eric: This song, I believe you can sing.

You may know it. It's called "Thirsty Boots."

Arthur: When FestivalExpress happened in Canada, Eric

Andersen was the only artist onthe bill who was straddling the

world of folk music and this new genre of psychedelic,

progressive rock, whatever you wanna call it.

He was a completely unique artist on that tour.

When you see Janis Joplin and when you see Rick Danko and

Jerry Garcia and the rest of them jamming, these late

after-hours jams, you see thatfolk music--folk music and blues

was their roots.

And left to their own devices, that's where

they all go back to.

And that's where Eric fit in with them.

Debbie: I couldn't go because I was too pregnant.

I was pissed about that 'cause it was gonna be a great,

you know, experience.

And it was.

Everybody, pretty stoned on whatever.

They had a great time.

Would love to have been on that trip.

♪ To think a love like that, could be ours. ♪




Debbie: It was 1970 when Sari was born.

♪ All alone, a father says. ♪

Debbie: As a dad, he was really loving and wonderful,

just totally doting.

♪ Far away, a mother sleeps,

♪ her baby yet unborn.

♪ Rain and wood and fire and stone, ♪

♪ magic all across the land. ♪

♪ Seasons come and time will go ♪

♪ right through your hand,

♪ like wind and sand.

Debbie: Eric went into alittle bit of shock when he was

first a dad and was a little at odds.

Eric: I'm very confusedright now about what I should be


Debbie talks of saving and moving and buying land.

I dream of finding a peaceful room to study books and write

poetry or go to Europe.

Debbie: He found this little house and an antique writing


There was a little room that was just perfect for a writer, an

artist alone, you know.

And I went to look and therewas--it wasn't a family's house.

He really wanted to get it, but he couldn't 'cause he had,

you know, this appendage.


♪ Seasons come and time will go ♪

♪ right through your hand,

♪ like wind and sand.

Debbie: And it wasn't too long after that, Janis called

and said that Jimi Hendrix had died, which was shocking news.

And it wasn't too long after that that we got a call that

Janis died.



Debbie: Eric was at loose ends.

'71, '72, he wasn't tied to anything.

He didn't know what was gonna happen to his career

at that point.

It was open-ended.

Eric: Time is slipping by.

What would you do, Arthur Rimbaud?


♪ I was dreaming.

♪ I looked so pale.

Eric: My first inspiration was in Whitman, Keats, or Poe.

If I can truly recollect now, I believe it was Rimbaud.


Eric: And these tombstones somebody would pray for them,

you know, as if they needed a little assistance

on their wayto heaven, especially him 'cause

he was the one who wrote the book, you know,

"A Season in Hell."

Ian: Eric's appreciation of Rimbaud, questioning his own

place in the world, the value of his work, that quest for self,

almost like a Sadhu in India,to give up everything except the

essence of yourself.


♪ Like children I held in the dawn of time. ♪

Ian: Eric didn't just read deep poetry, he was profoundly

aware of the philosophical implications of the dedication

required to take that positionand, of course, with Patti Smith

we see it again because, with her, I think they had an

extraordinary connection.

♪ Words that I've read, yes, I've lived them all. ♪

Ian: She shared Eric's veneration of great writers,

like Rimbaud.

Eric: Once, if I rememberwell, my life was a feast where

all hearts opened and all wines flowed.

I fled.

O witches, O misery, Ohate, to you as my treasure but


Ian: That connection, it gives you a different idea of

his life.

Some of the letters and poems she sent to him, they show her

admiration for him.

"One five o'clock in themorning, a time when sleep lies

in the heart of most men, outside light had hit the

skyscrapers, the pigeons, and the one lone taxi, but the sun

was hitting everything and the sky was so pretty and we were

feeling so good.

Eric said, 'Let's walk.' So we walked, and he hummed little

songs and later I left him daydreaming and singing to

himself, fist in torn pockets, a happy Rimbaud, leaning against

a plaque for Dylan Thomas, a little drunk with dawn

at the Chelsea Hotel."

So, yeah, so it was, yeah, thattells you all you need to know.



Eric: I feel new things with Emmy.

New songs, new words.

I would like to do something really simple

and really different.

I wanna create something that is really me.



♪ Old man go to the river

♪ to drop his bale of woes.

Debbie: He wrote "Blue River" at my mother's house.

My mother had passed away andthe house was there and he went

out and he wrote "Blue River" and "Wind and Sand"

in a weekend.

♪ Listen to me now.

♪ Blue River,

♪ keep right on rolling.

♪ All along the shoreline.

♪ Keep us safe from the deep and the dark ♪

♪ 'cause we don't wanna stray too far. ♪

Happy: "Blue River" is one of the great songs

of the whole genre.

I mean, that song, I hear it today and it just moves me.

♪ I spent the day with my old dog, Mo, ♪

♪ down an old dirt road.

♪ And what he's thinking, Lord, I don't know. ♪

♪ But for him I bet the time just goes so slow. ♪

♪ Don't you know? ♪

Happy: It's such a personal song.

It's so--it's so anthemic.

You can just feel like you're gonna just burst into song

along with the chorus.

♪ All along the shoreline. Keep us safe. ♪

Lenny: "Blue River" seems to me to be a certain culmination

of a journey that began from hisdebut album where he got all the

pieces of the puzzle right.

Clive Davis: That was a verystellar group of musicians that

were part of that, not tomention least of all, that Joni

Mitchell appeared on the title cut and sang.

Creatively, my career began in1967 when I signed Janis Joplin,

Big Brother & The Holding Company and Buddy

Miles and went on to sign Blood Sweat & Tears, Chicago,

Santana, Earth Wind & Fire.

Norbert Putnam: Clive Davis calls me up.

"Norbert, I want you to come to New York.

I have to talk to you."

Well, I'm still a bass player, you know, and this is the only

record I ever produced, is the Joan Baez record, so I wasn't

betting I was gonna be a producer.

Clive flew me to New York.

He said, "Kid, you have just done an amazing thing."

I said, "I have?"

He said, "In her ten-year career she's never sold

more than 100,000.

You've just done a million and a half.

You know something about this folk music."

I thought, "I don't know anything about folk music.

It's not my favorite music."

He goes, "Kid, what I want you to do is produce the folk acts

on Columbia."

Oh, God, I said, "Really?" You know?

And he goes, "Norbert, youknow something about this music.

This Baez record, it's crossed over a lot of boundaries.

I don't know what you did."

And I'm sitting there, thinking, "What the hell did I do?"

You know what I'm saying?

And he's telling me, he said, "Now, I got a couple of people

I want you to look at."

Eric and Debbie show up, and we just start throwing

a session together.

And I thought, "Well, gee, he's a poet.

This man's a poet."

♪ Sitting here, forgotten, like a book upon a shelf. ♪

♪ No one there to turn the page, left to read yourself. ♪

♪ Alone to sit and wonder just how the story ends. ♪

♪ 'Cause no one ever told you, "Child, you gotta ♪

♪ be your own best friend."

♪ Sunny days, cloudy days.

Debbie: He was centeredand there and it was beautiful.

When you're recording, you want--there's a pure emotion.

There's a time of pure relationship to the music,

what you're playing.

You're not thinking about it.

It's not like, "Take 54," you know.

You're not thinking, "Oh, shouldI sing it some--" You know, it's

just--and on the very first takes, you know, we got it.

♪ Oh, is it really love at all. ♪

Norbert: I'd learned a lot from Debbie.

She helped me tremendously tosee the big picture, 'cause I'm

just trying to scope out who Eric Andersen is, you know?

And Debbie had as much to do with the production of that

record as I did, quite honestly.

Debbie: I don't think Eric and I were together then.

So we, you know, we would split up and then he would make an

album so we'd get--we'd alwaysbe coming back to that process.

Arthur: It was a fascinating chemistry.

It was a fascinating chemistry,and it turned into a beautiful

album, and this was arecord that brought him a wider

audience, something that Columbia Records

was not unaware of.

Here was an artist who was about to really explode.

♪ The girl you know, she could steal the show. ♪

♪ She can get you speaking crazy. ♪

♪ And get it on with you all night long, ♪

♪ make you feel amazing.

♪ Oh, won'’t you rag, Mamma rag? ♪

♪ But then ya got me off my feet. ♪

♪ My heart just skipped a beat. ♪

♪ Oh, won't you rag Mamma, rag Mamma? ♪

Ian: The record came out at just the right time.

It had the right sound.

The songs were wonderful.


♪ Feathers flying, she's looking fine. ♪

♪ Now she just feeling dandy. ♪

Steve Addabbo: "Blue River" was the one that really got me

and, you know, I really became an Eric Andersen fan big-time.

Then I went back to catch hisearlier stuff, but "Blue River"

was the one I wore out.

♪ Girl, you know, let's steal the show, you know. ♪

♪ If she gets the notion.

♪ Rockin' on with you All night long, man. ♪

♪ She got some locomotion.

Arthur: He's a damn good songwriter.

"Blue River" was definitely a hit album.

You know, he had a star-like quality.

When he sang, he certainly cast his spell on the audience.

The proof of that, the "Blue River" album was never out of

catalog at Columbia Records for the next three decades.

It was never out of catalog.

It always was a bestseller.

♪ Then she was here.

Anthony: If you had a hit record, the smart thing was to

come out with another record, you know, very soon.

You know, he had a hit recordwith "Blue River" and, you know,

the stage was set for the next record.


Norbert: We did a second record a year or so later, the

"Stages" record, and he was a changed man.

He walked through the door and he said, "Norbert Putnam, sit

down, I'm gonna tell you how I'm gonna do this record."


♪ I believe that sometimes everybody's got to ♪

♪ have somebody who will hold 'em tight. ♪

Norbert: People were saying he is the new God,

he is the new Dylan.

And, like most normal people, I think his ego bought into it,

you know what I'm saying?

And it wasn't an unusual thing.

Debbie: Maybe it's ego, I dunno.

So there's a--something about that creative space that

people--they aren't self-conscious.

When they--you know, they're too creative to be self-conscious.

♪ Be yourself, be yourself, and love yourself ♪

♪ when no one else will do.

♪ You be true to you.

Happy: There was a time when Jackson Brown was putting out

stuff, a lot of very heartfelt singer-songwriters were coming

out with terrific records.

Coming up with a follow-uprecord was so important because

it would have just kept thatmomentum going to show that it's

not a one-record fluke or that he really has what it takes.

Norbert: I thought the songs were excellent.

My favorite recording of Eric's is on the "Stages" album and

it's the "Time Run Like a Freight Train."

Listen to the quality of that voice and the emotion in that


It's just Eric sitting out therewith Teddy Irwin, this wonderful

guitar player, and Teddy'ssort of playing off what Eric's


The track went down live.

♪ There's so much I can never see ♪

♪ of the ruins left behind.

♪ And my pockets, they are empty. ♪

♪ There's so much on my mind. ♪

♪ Time run like a freight train. ♪

Norbert: A day or two later,I would have some percussion and

some strings and some subtle things in the background, you

know, and some vocal things.

But we captured him that day, and I captured him fast too.

I captured him before he had a chance to think about it.


I think we got him on the first take that day.

Debbie: The budget was mounting up.

In comes Leon Russell--Leon Russell and entourage,

in the middle of the session.

Eric: So how can you say to me, like, when I walk in the

room, you know, "Who are you, man?"

You know, it's my session, see?

I think there's a cameramanholding me back from walking in,

in my session.

I'm wondering what's going on, you know?

And you say, "Oh, did I meet you, man?"

male: Oh, you were historian then.

Do you think there's anythingelse happening right now that's

more important than what was happening when somebody grabs

you by the collar and asks you who you were?

Do you think that this might bemore important than that or do

you wanna dwell on that for a while?

Eric: Well, I--it wasn't more important.

A conversation about filmmaking was not more important

than what I was into.

That's how I feel.

Debbie: This was about eight hours of Eric's budget.

I mean, get out of the way, you know?


Arthur: The follow-up to "Blue River" was like a blank.

There's a blank there on the page.

Arthur: When Eric Andersen completed the recordings of

"Stages," and left Nashville,something happened to the tapes

and they were lost.

Eric: I get a call from Nashville.

You know, the good news, it's a sunny day down here.

It's a beautiful--

But the bad news is, well,oops, well, we lost your album.

So it's like you've got to be kidding.

Arthur: That record thatshould have come out on schedule

in 1973 didn't come out.

There was no budget tore-record it and that was that.

Anthony: A newly recorded album disappearing, I know

of no other instance of that.

I mean, there may be but I am completely unfamiliar

with that phenomenon.

Amy Herot: People lose things.

I can see losing, you know, a letter.

But the amount of money and time it costs a company to

produce--record and produce a record, it just seems really

strange that it would disappear.

It seems--it seems deliberate but I don't wanna make any

accusations because I don't actually know.

I can't even think of why somebody would wanna do that.

It's actually seems awfully cruel.

Norbert: The rumor I heard was that he'd pissed someone

off at CBS and they hid the tapes.

I don't know if Eric just became too crazy with his ego,

but I've seen it happen to other people many times.

If you--if you're a problemfor a major label, they just go,

"Well, he's a one-hit wonder. Who else do we have?

Oh, we got these ten acts.

Well, let's have a listen, and it's over, okay?

Their career's over.


♪ I laughed at all the truth I saw, ♪

♪ and the life I had no more. ♪

♪ For fame, she was a one-night stand ♪

♪ and fortune, but a whore.

♪ In the good times we were riding high ♪

♪ 'til the good times all were gone. ♪

♪ And I wasn't sure what the bad times were ♪

♪ 'til the devil pushed me down. ♪

♪ Sheila, can you help me?

♪ I cannot go no higher.

♪ Sheila, can you help me?

♪ My head is all on fire.


♪ Now it's just a life of room to room, ♪

♪ where my lovers come no more ♪

♪ in the dream that I could beat ♪

♪ the devil from my door.

♪ God, it gets so lonesome

♪ when the fire's in your veins, ♪

♪ when all you got is one last shot ♪

♪ to get it right again.

♪ Sheila, can you help me?

♪ I cannot go no higher.

♪ Sheila, can you help me?

♪ My head is all on fire. ♪

Svein: One evening, Johncalled me and said, "You have to

come up to my place.

I have heard a record."

And he said, "Just come and listen to this."

Put on the record and it comes out, I remember it, "Sitting

here forgotten like a book upon a shelf."

The record was "Blue River."

He said, "Wow, this was beautiful.

And we--we have to sell this record."

We ordered 100 copies.

He said, "Everybody who is at this shop, they have to have

'Blue River' with them when they're leaving."

And we said, "If you can't pay, just listen to the record and

you pay if you want to."

And everybody paid.

And then John said, "Oh, let's invite him over."

We wrote him a letter.

A few weeks later we got an answer, say,

"Yeah, I'd like to come."

John told me, Eric came down the stairs from the plane.

He was in good spirits because the champagne was free and he

got on the ground and he kissedthe ground just like the Pope.

Eric: I had planned tostay a month in Europe in 1980.

I ended up staying.

My dad's family had hailedfrom Norway and now here I was,

returning home to my Viking roots.

Little winding streets and white houses climbing up the hills

with windows facing the fjord.

The town seemed so clean,untouched, like it was some kind

of magical watery blue dream out of the past.

Debbie: I remember saying,"Eric, you know, you gotta keep

your presence here in the States."

Lots of people said, "Don't--you know, you're going ex pat and

you're gonna lose all your audience here."

Ian: There were disadvantages to being in a country like

Norway in terms of the music business.

Everybody can see that.

But it was right for him at that time.

He had to make a big change in his life.

Eric: It was there I first met the girl in a long blue skirt.

♪ Would I send a word to the one in the long blue skirt. ♪

Unni Askeland: 'Cause that's what I wore the first day we


♪ Near the place where we first met it was on the ♪

♪ streets of Rome.

♪ You were young and your eyes were bright, ♪

♪ your cheeks were flushed-- ♪

Ian: Yes, it was Unni.

Yes, it was the familyhistory connections with Norway.

Yes, there'd been the "Stages" debacle.

But one of the things is, from the early '60s onwards, Eric

dreamed of going to Europe, of becoming a writer.

This is an image he has of Hemingway.

It's an image of a typewriterand going to a café and having a

beautiful woman with you to lead the literary life, to be in a

place where you can say, "I'm a writer."

♪ Rollin' down the I-40, that ribbon of old blacktop. ♪

♪ When you talked about Memphis, you know, ♪

♪ you almost broke my heart. ♪

♪ I wanna run away.

Unni: We were supposed to get married, actually.

He proposed to me about nine times.

♪ I wanna run away.

Unni: And I said "No" all the times because I didn't

understand why we should get married.

I thought we were like more than married in a way.

♪ Couldn't see the swamp yet, but the evenin' ♪

♪ was steamin' hot.

♪ When you're lookin' for what you're missin'. ♪

Eric: Dear Mom and Dad, spring is sprung.

People are wearing shorts andkids are going barefoot, getting

that excited summer feeling.

Green is appearing on the slender birch branches,

and flowers are about to burst through their pods.

A time of renewal.


I must do some rewriting of new songs, rehearse for some

upcoming shows this weekend, and tend to the laundry.


♪ You are so gracious to behold, ♪

♪ with this and more than the sunshine ♪

♪ made of gold.

Anthony: In the early '80s, artists like Eric, they were

really contending with a kindof shifting musical environment,

you know, MTV.

You know, have made a big impact.

Yeah, I remember thinking, right around that time, that, you

know, the kind of, you know, singer-songwriter, you know,

folk-based artist whom I liked, you know, it was gonna

be a hard go for them.

Unni: We didn't have much.

We were not used to having much money.

He was on the road, like, making whatever you made to get by.

It wasn't easy.

♪ It's not the life for me.

Clive: I know that almost every artist goes through some

period where whatever degree of major success they had,

it will tail off.

Dionne Warwick, Aretha Franklin, Luther Vandross,

Carlos Santana, Rod Stewart.

In those cases, you're dealing with artists who don't write

their own material, for the most part.

But when you're dealing with singer-songwriters,

you're dealing with their music.

You're not--I would never think of giving outside material.

So for the singer-songwriter, the record business requires

perpetual hard work.

You can't rest easy.

Unni: He was writing a little so he had his office and if he

could some days, he could be there for 24 hours.

I had dinner at a certaintime because of our kids, right?

So I remember I can't count howmany times his food got cold and

how many times I yelled in the stairs and sent the kids up to

get him.

Eric: I'm feeling a lot of anxiety about my recording


Between the wolves outside my door and the wolves rattling

them chains, snapping on the inside cage of my soul, it's a

bloody mess.

I'm not a poet; I'm an animal trainer.

Steve: For a while, in a period like that, early '80s

when he was in Europe makingthese kind of Euro pop records,

I mean, I didn't get that stuff.

And I told him flat out when I met him, I said, "We have to

connect you back to what Iconnected with in "Blue River."

And that's when we started the "Ghosts Upon the Road" album,

you know, just kind of getting back to that sadness.

'Cause he was trying to do something that I felt wasn't

really him.

And after two, be successful which, of course,

is the kiss of death.

♪ Now, the crowd that I hung out with, ♪

♪ well, they were outcasts too. ♪

♪ Suzie, alone and pregnant with my best friend's kid. ♪

♪ Johnny Boy just got thrown out of the local loony bin. ♪

♪ And Brian was rentin' outapartments that didn't exist. ♪

Anthony: I was working at"Rolling Stone" at the time and,

you know, followed him, written about him a number of times.

And I remember thinking, like, "God, it's so exciting and I

really like Eric and I love so much stuff that he's done,"

but then I was thinking, like,"Man, what am I gonna do if this

record isn't any good."


♪ Ghosts upon the road.

Anthony: But then when I heard it.

♪ They were ghosts upon the road. ♪

Anthony: And it'shaunting, you know what I mean?

I think that imagery is very apt.

It's not just, you know, a nice metaphor.

It's something that really resonates on that record.

You know, I was really just floored.

I mean, I still think it's one of the relatively overlooked

great records of that period.


♪ There's a blue shadow moving ♪

♪ through the Moulin Rouge.

♪ And a man with a knife point pickin' his teeth. ♪

♪ Off duty cop sits with hisback to the door and somebody ♪

♪ just took a piss in the sink. ♪

Arthur: Eric today is still a storyteller.

He sets the scene and unravels this beautiful,

this incredibly complex story.

He's much more interesting than a lot of his contemporaries

of the '60s, a lot more interesting.

♪ Being thin as a shadow

♪ smokin' under a light

♪ and there's trouble in Paris tonight. ♪♪


Eric: Dear Dad, I mustconfess after months of touring,

I'm so happy to just be alone by myself with my thoughts,

my music.

I can work when I want, sleep when I want, and walk in the

woods when I want.

A poet's dream.

A chance to study, reflect, and hear the voices inside me

and listen to what they're saying.


♪ Old man, go to the river

♪ to drop his bale of woes.

♪ He could go if he wanted to, ♪

♪ it's just a boat to row,

♪ you know.

♪ Listen to me now.

♪ Blue river, keep right on rollin'. ♪

♪ All along the shore line. ♪♪

Rick Danko: Eric played a show near my home town in the

Catskill Mountains and Jonas came up for that show.

We were on stage and all of a sudden we just started singing

a song together.

We all realized we had a very special chemistry that felt

fresh and the balance was special.

The place that we were playing in just lit up like great high

spirits and it was just an undeniable piece of chemistry

that we just couldn't let slip through our fingers, you know?


♪ I'm drifting away down a long dark highway. ♪

Happy: Eric is known as a heart-emptying kind of

singer-songwriter, you know, ofgreat introspection and passion,

but the fact is that he's also a good collaborator.

When he was playing with Rick Danko who was another fabulous

artist and some--and Jonas Fjeldwho was--I mean, the stuff they

did together, to me, was among Eric's best stuff.


♪ And if you find me on some lonesome shore, ♪

♪ you wouldn't have to look for more. ♪♪


male: Jonas Fjeld.

Rick Danko.

Jonas Fjeld: I was very sad, very sad.

I mean, we were in the processof recording album number three.

But we all could see that Rick was sick, for years.

I mean, yeah, he had a troublesome life.

So it was not a surprise but it was sad, very sad.

Eric: I loved working with him.

I learned a lot about him.

Playing with musicians, playingwith a group, with a band, and

where the soul of the band wasbigger than all the members, you

learned how to interact with other players and keep

your ego in check.

And we always traded verses.

That was--it was very democratic, the idea that

we'd--somebody would come upwith a song and one person would

sing a verse, another person would sing a verse to complete

the version of a particular song.

It was a beautiful thing.

Eric: My dear amigo, Rick.

The snow is falling outside the window and the world

is suddenly quiet and light.

I'm looking out on the blue hour in Norway when a deep cobalt

saturates the air like blue ink.

That special time of afternoon when it isn't day

and it isn't night.

It's the color of a soul.

I'm missing you like hell.

Sleep in peace, angel.

All my love, from a brother in arms, Eric.


Eric: The Columbia Vaults uptown by the Museum

of Modern Art.

They were like bank vaults.

Getting anything hot around is very difficult.

One night, some guy who worked there stumbled over some boxes

that weren't there before.

He stumbled over my album.

Somebody just threw it on a floor and just left.

Nobody saw who did it.

Nobody signed in.

Nobody signed out.

It came from Nashville.

That's all I knew, in a truck at night.

They found it, everyone was happy, I think,

but some people probably weren't.

They had to cough it up because they were really looking

for this, apparently.

They were, like, checking, like, in the basements and, like,

they were nosing around.

Amy: I had sent so manyrequests, you know, it's kind of

like you can't not notice the name Eric Andersen now 'cause

they probably had had 20 requests from me.

The tape storage facility at 52nd Street was quite small so

it wasn't like they could have mysteriously been

sitting there for a long time.

You know, tapes that werecurrently being worked on at the

studio and then anything not in use would get shipped back to

Iron Mountain, so, you know, thearrival of--and I still remember

them sitting there, I mean, it was like a mountain of tapes

just arrived one day, based on the tape requests that

I had continued to put in.

Eric: You know, in the deadof night, cloak and dagger, man,

they brought 'em up and got 'em into New York.

Unni: There was always a shadow over his shoulder

of what happened.

Where did the tape--where did it go?

And I remember how fantastic it was.

And how great it was and how happy he was.

But then again, this was old stuff.

It was 17 years later, I think, and that's a generation

of listeners.

Eric: $10, my price is pretty low.



♪ What's said is said, what's done is done. ♪

♪ You can't relive the past. ♪

♪ The water's blown and so is the bridge. ♪

♪ You can't relive the past. ♪

♪ Memory runs right by your eyes so real and so fast. ♪

♪ The dam is burst, the acid's spilt. ♪

♪ You can't relive the past. ♪

♪ You can't relive the past. ♪

♪ You can't relive the past. ♪

♪ The dam is burst, the acid's spilt. ♪

♪ You can't relive the past. ♪

♪ I sat beauty on my knees.

♪ You can't relive the past. ♪♪

Eric: Songwriting can be very limiting.

Songs really have a format,you know, verse, chorus, verse,

chorus, and--which is what something that I found boring.

So I tried to break out of that by writing songs like "Ghosts

Upon the Road" or, later, "Beat Avenue."

More blank verse, free verse,where you could sort of stretch

the horizons, and try to pierce the borders,

the limitations of songs then.

Writing pop music never interested me, you know?

I never tried to write a hit or--every time I tried,

it was a disaster.


♪ It was high noon in the neighborhood. ♪

♪ The city fell in shock the moment when it heard ♪

♪ the news the president had been shot. ♪

♪ Sun was shining, nothing shaking. ♪

♪ Bay so big and blue.

♪ Me stuck in a phone booth, armful of wash, ♪

♪ tryin' to call my gal across the Bay. ♪

Marilyn Crispell: The language of the Beat poets,

I think, was very connected.

They are songs.

They're in song form so they are not totally free,

but they're not in a box either.

♪ I looked around with a feelin' strange and lost. ♪

It was hot in the neighborhood and gettin' spooky fast.

♪ Startled words became a flood, tongues gathered ♪

♪ and soon began to flock.

♪ The moment when they heard the news the president ♪

♪ had been shot, shot, shot. ♪

♪ Me walkin' in space, whistlin' in the dark. ♪

♪ I didn't have a clue.

♪ Thinkin' about a new song, ramblin' down Beat Avenue. ♪

♪ Shot, shot. ♪♪

Robert Aaron: Beat Avenue was kind of an experiment.

We were gonna try and dub it tothe world of drum machines and

tell a story over that.

I think it was a point of his life where he wanted to

experiment with other sounds and, you know,

the aspects to his music.

♪ If ya hear me singin' Lightning's Rocky Mountain ♪

♪ Blues, know I'm back out on the road again. ♪

♪ Farewell, Beat Avenue. ♪

Robert: Everybody else come in to their own talent and you

have to take what fits you, what suits you.

You can't--you have to follow your own drumbeat, you know?

We were trying to create something new.

That's the sad thing about now,you know, especially now, when

there's, like, nothing, nothing new happening,

this age of nostalgia.





♪ Ooh

♪ Ooh

Inge Andersen: I was always looking for something but I've

always had this craving formusic and I love to sing harmony

on his songs and I think ourvoices--people tell us that our

voices blend very well.

They go very well together.

It's a beautiful thing to do together.

Makes you feel very happy.

Makes me feel very happy, yeah.

Eric: And my harmony singerover here is my wife, Inge, and

she's from Holland.

Inge: He sees things that other people just walk by.

And creates something, writes about it, and something new

is born.

♪ Stop and listen to the rain. ♪

♪ Listen to the rain.

♪ Take your time and listen to the rain. ♪

♪ Take your time and listen to-- ♪♪

Inge: And he loves to be by himself but he very much needs

also people around him to share it with.

And that's how we have it here too.


♪ Take the quiet like a river, like the silver streams ♪

♪ that sing for you.

♪ Love will make it better ♪

♪ and I'm sorry that you saw me blue. ♪

♪ I'll tell you of the sunrise ♪

♪ on a Texas plain so long ago. ♪

♪ I looked into your sad eyes-- ♪

Inge: He has his ownplace where he can have his own

creative world and we have our life together.

♪ But I love you like the mountains, ♪

♪ I love you like the sea. ♪

Inge: It's a great way of having it both ways.




♪ I can feel myself sinking back to the earth, ♪

♪ each new idea seems to make it much worse. ♪

♪ Maybe death is a mask for some kind of rebirth. ♪

♪ draggin' me slow through the mud. ♪

Ian: Eric has benefited by not being as famous as perhaps

he would like to have been because it's given him the

creative time and space to make very different kinds of work:

work that isn't ostensibly commercial.

♪ They don't know how deep is your love. ♪

♪ Well, I look over yonder and what do I see? ♪

♪ A big band of angels waving to me. ♪

♪ They say to come closer

♪ but there ain't time, you see. ♪

♪ My below has no use for above. ♪♪

Lenny: You know, I don't expect most music to represent

poetry, just as I don't really expect poetry

to represent music.

But when they come together, thesense of surreal imagery and the

chords that accompany them, that's a beautiful thing.

And it's not easy to pull off.

It's not easy to understand howthey can help each other without

becoming pretentious on either side.

But Eric's lyrics had a real sense of modesty.

I don't know how to explain it.

He's not, like, preaching from a distant mountain.

He's, like, speaking directly to you.

And to me, that's the most beautiful poetry of all.


♪ Man expelled from meetings from Eden's bowers, ♪

♪ a moment lingered near the gate. ♪

♪ Each scene recalled the vanish'd hours. ♪

♪ They don't curse his future fate--bade him curse, ♪

♪ bade him curse, bade him, bade him curse his future-- ♪

♪ To fantasize of other times and envision scenes, ♪

♪ and envision scenes.

♪ And envision scenes.

Ian: Whilst working on the archive, I've tried always not

to disturb him because I know that he is so completely

dedicated and involved in the work that

he's creating right now.

The reason he's interested in Byron is because he's doing

something that hasn't been done before.

He's actually putting some ofthat beautiful poetry to music.


♪ There's pleasure in the pathless woods, ♪

♪ rapture on the lonely shore. ♪

♪ There's society, where none intrudes, ♪

♪ by the deep sea music's roar. ♪

♪ I love not man the less, but nature more. ♪

♪ From these our interviews, ♪

♪ in which I steal from all I may be, ♪

♪ or have been before, to mingle with the universe, ♪

♪ Mingle with the universe, mingle with the universe. ♪

♪ Here is the end. ♪


Eric: Lord Byron, he's up there.

Sari Andersen: He's unusual, he's unique.

I wouldn't say he's like any other dad.

There's a depth to what he'ssharing, you know, and it's not

just the words themselves.

There's a soul that's like ariver that runs through us all.

Some of us live more on the surface where we're in our

bodies, we're in our egos, we'rein our minds, we're busy, we're

doing, learning how to, you know, we're putting on an act.

We all have that capacity.

It's called personality, right?

But we all have a soul that's like a deep river that runs

through us.

And I feel like when he is sharing his art, he is tapping

into that.

And when somebody taps truly authentically into who they

really are, beyond all thatother, you know, the dark image,

the persona, when that is tapped into, you cannot

help but be touched.

It is catching.



♪ Take me to the night.

♪ I'm tippin' topsy turvy, turning upside down. ♪

♪ Hold me tight and whisper what you wish for, ♪

♪ there is no one here around. ♪

♪ Oh, you can sing-song me sweet smiles, ♪

♪ regardless of the city's careless frown. ♪

♪ Come watch the no colors fade blazing ♪

♪ into petal sprays of violets of dawn. ♪

♪ In blindfold wonderment's enchantment ♪

♪ you can lift my wings softly to fly. ♪

♪ Your eyes are like swift fingers reaching out ♪

♪ into the pockets of my night. ♪

♪ Whirling twirling puppy warm, ♪

♪ before the flashing cloaks of darkness gone. ♪

♪ Come watch the no colors fade blazing ♪

♪ into petal sprays of violets of dawn. ♪

♪ Some Prince Charming I could be-- ♪♪

Tom: What I think Eric puts out there is his vision,

his poetic vision.

He writes the way he needs to write.

He sings what he needs to sing, and he knows he can't control

the rest, you know?

He says, "All I ask is thefreedom to do what I love to do,

the way I want to do it, and then I'll take what comes."

Sari: How can anybody notbe hurt when your whole career,

basically, got stumped?

He's gotta go on, you know?

He can't relive the past, you know, right?

He's still creating.

And I think that's strongerthan, ultimately, the need for,

you know, the fame, the big recognition and all of that.

That would be wonderful, that would be a bonus and I think

a very well-deserved light.

However, ultimately, he's an artist.

He is not done.




Eric: Fini.

♪ I am a street singer and I sing for my keep. ♪

♪ Oh, the people pass by my way on the street. ♪

♪ I've sung my way from London to France, ♪

♪ New York to Frankfurt, and all the way back. ♪

♪ New York to Frankfurt, and all the way back. ♪

♪ Some say that working a job nine to five gonna ♪

♪ take 'em up to heaven like it took them through life. ♪

♪ I say that workin' the street's being free ♪

♪ Show you more life thanyou'll ever see in your dream. ♪

♪ Show you more life than you'll ever see in your dreams. ♪

♪ So gather 'round the table and form a little fan. ♪

♪ Take a hat to the streetsand do the best that you can. ♪

♪ But people who pass by, they all got a lot. ♪

♪ The one thing they don't have is the freedom you've got. ♪

♪ The one thing they don't have is the freedom you've got. ♪

♪ Call me the busker with the songs of my soul. ♪

♪ With my guitar in heaven, a drum on my back. ♪

♪ I sing in your subways, your trolleys and trams, ♪

♪ I am a street singer and I'm proud that I am. ♪

♪ I am a street singer and I'm just a singing, ♪

♪ a singing man. ♪


announcer: This program was made possible in part by the

Tramuto Foundation, hearing human need and helping

individuals and communities through collaborative

partnership; and by Williamand Lee Kilduff, Ron Fierstein,

Josiah L. and Jean L.Mason, Douglas Wick and others.

A complete list of funders is available at





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