Blind from the age of 16 and principally self-taught, he moved to NYC in 1943, when he was 27. He decided to make his life on the street, selling his poetry and singing. For 20 years, he could be found at his post on 53rd Street and Sixth Avenue, dressed as a Viking in robes and horned helmet, chanting, singing his songs, and listening.
During his time in New York, he met Leonard Bernstein and Toscanini, Benny Goodman and Charlie Parker. He transformed the street sounds and life around him into percussive adventures, beautiful songs, and intricate dances. These pieces have great names like, Snaketime Rhythm, Alphorn of Plenty, Hymn to Peace, and Mother’s Whistler.
Hymn to Peace
At heart a percussionist, he once said, “I’m not gonna die in 4/4 time.” He invented instruments when he needed them and composed unceasingly. He moved to Germany in 1974 and died in 1999.