Featured Artist: Kaleo

ABOUT KALEO
Firmly a phenomenon in their home country of Iceland, the four-piece band Kaleo is set to descend upon foreign shores in 2015, bringing their gorgeous blend of folk, blues, country, and rock to a wider mainstream audience in America. Their isolated heritage inspires a unique take on familiar sonic elements, resulting in diversity and freedom on each and every breathtaking track.

Best friends since attending elementary school in the small town of Mosfellsbaer outside of Reykjavik, bandleader JJ Julius Son, drummer David Antonsson Crivello, and bassist Danny Jones began playing together at the age of 17. Honing their skills, they played countless shows around the nation’s capital for a few years before adding guitarist Rubin Pollock to the mix in 2012. They named the band Kaleo, which means “the sound” in Hawaiian, and started their career in earnest with a handful of well-received shows at the 2012 Iceland Airwaves music festival.

They recorded their first pair of original songs in early 2013, the fiery “Rock N Roller” and laid-back, bluesy “Pour Sugar On Me,” which earned Kaleo some radio airplay and press in Iceland. Then, that spring, their cover of the traditional Icelandic ballad “Vor í vaglaskógi” during a live radio show was videotaped and posted to YouTube, where it quickly went viral. The band recorded a studio version of the song in June, which went straight to Number One in virtually every radio station in the country. “It’s a different kind of cover, more dramatic and the tempo is taken down,” says JJ. The buzz for Kaleo had begun.

The band signed to Iceland’s largest record label, Sena, in the fall of 2013 and recorded their full-length debut, Kaleo, in just six short weeks. Five singles would reach Number One and the album would go Gold, receiving high praise and sending the band to shows and festivals in Europe over the next year, including an appearance on the biggest stage in their home country, Culture Night, where they played to 100,000 people and reached 90 percent of Iceland’s population in broadcast. Then, in the spring of 2014, Kaleo recorded the lush, introspective song “All the Pretty Girls” and in one night their destiny to outgrow their small, island nation was cemented.

“It’s a very delicate song. It seemed to speak to a lot of people,” says JJ. “From there everything started to happen. We got contacted from other places: managers, labels, publishers—they all went crazy over one night.” Drawn to Kaleo’s multi-layered dynamics, their ability to play different genres with equal skill, the vocals and mood reminiscent of everything from Bon Iver and Iron & Wine to Coldplay and David Gray, and wise-beyond-their-years songwriting, the world came calling.

Now, signed to Atlantic Records in the US, Kaleo has moved to Austin, Texas, and will begin recording new material with producer Mike Crossey (Arctic Monkeys, Jake Bugg) in London for an EP due this year. Get ready for the sound.

Taken from Kaleo's official website

 

 

Taken from the Altwire interview; "We Played Live Inside A Volcano...", 7 November 2015.

I sat down with JJ to discuss how the band came to be, their upcoming album and what it was like playing inside of a volcano.

AltWire (Danny Benavides): Hey JJ, How is it going? How are you doing today?

JJ: Pretty good, how are you?

AW: You guys beginning your tour?

JJ: We are still in Austin currently, we drop down in Nashville on Saturday and from there, we start the tour.

AW: I know you guys are originally from Iceland and recently moved to the States. What brought you down to Austin?

JJ: Well, we got a record label here in the U.S. so it was a local move to come. Especially since we are doing a lot of touring. We also wanted to record our next album here. We were looking into a few places and Nashville and Austin were are top two choices and the most exciting for us. We wanted to be somewhere in the roots of the music we are inspired by which is a lot of blues. Also, our management company is based out of Austin so it was a good fit.

AW: You made a great choice. So I know you are working on the new album scheduled to come out next year. How did you get together with Jacquire King for the new album? 

JJ: We are a big fan of his work and we had talked to him earlier about working together. Fortunately we all found a time in our schedule and its been going great so far. I look forward to finishing the album.

AW: Do you have a name for the album yet.

JJ: No we do not. That’s a tricky part.

AW: How did the band come together?

JJ: We are all from a small town in Iceland called Mosfellsbær in Iceland which is a suburb in the capital  Reykjavik. It’s a small town of about 9000 people and we were all together in middle school and that’s kind of where we got started. Me, David and Danny had classes together. We got into playing cover gigs and developed as a band over the years. Kaleo formed about 3 years ago when Rubin Pollock joined the band and played guitar. That’s when we started to focus on original material.

AW: Who were some of your biggest influences coming up?

JJ: I would say a lot of blues music. All the way back to the 70s. Muddy Waters, Robert Johnson, Howlin’ Wolfe and the Brits that took over and the great bands from the 60’s and 70s. Led Zeppelin, The Beatles, Ray Charles. We have influences from all over, we try not to do just one thing. We try to tap into different genres.

AW: If you have to choose one person, living or passed away, that you could collaborate with, who would it be?

JJ: Great question! Umm… It would be hard not to mention Paul or John as a songwriter. As a band, I think maybe Led Zeppelin is one of the greatest bands. I don’t know man, it’s tough. I think I will have to stick with John or Paul.

AW: So, I am a bit of a gamer, especially when it comes to FIFA. Are you guys gamers or fan of the game FIFA?

JJ: Some of us are. Yeah we do play FIFA though.

AW: With that said, I have to mention that for the longest time FIFA has had some of the best soundtracks of any games. It is how I discovered a lot of new music as well. I noticed your song “Way Down We Go” was featured in FIFA 2016. How exciting was that?

JJ: It was awesome. a year ago when we were signed we didn’t really know much. We were only playing in Iceland where the population is about 300,000. When we were asked from our publishing label, “What did we want to be featured in?” We said FIFA right away. It’s a pretty big thing in Europe. We are all big fans of soccer, especially myself. I don’t play too many video games but I do play FIFA. I have played since I was nine. We have it on the road in the bus so we can play whenever we want. We got some sore losers on the bus so sometimes we can’t play too much.

AW: Who is your go-to team?

JJ: Um, United. United, for sure. Also, our national team just qualified for the Euro 2016 for the first time. I’m disappointed they weren’t featured in the new game but maybe next time.

AW: Also, I saw you released a video for Way Down We Go back in August. I had to do a double take the first time I read that because it said “Live in a Volcano”. What was that like?

JJ: That was pretty amazing. We did a short trip back to Iceland back in July. We played a great show then we did the video which we thought was a great video. We played inside a live volcano. We reached out to the people there and they were all for it. It was a bit of a task than I had realized because we had to get everything down there. We did video and audio down there. We had to take all of our equipment down there. There was a very small down there, it takes 10 minutes to get down, 10 minutes to get up. It was a 26 hour day. The Acoustics down there were fantastic though, so we were really happy with the outcome.

AW: Who are some artists you are currently listening to?

JJ: It’s different across all of us but I’m into Alt-J’s new album a lot.

AW: You guys made your American debut last year during SXSW, any plans to repeat?

JJ: For sure, we had just arrived in the U.S. at that time. We played 8 shows during SXSW last year so yeah, hopefully we are back. It is in Austin after all.

AW: Thanks for chatting with us JJ and we look forward to hearing your new album out next year.

JJ: Thank you!


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Muhammad Ali - A Tribute

Muhammad Ali, who declared “I am the greatest” and proved it many times over, infuriating some and captivating countless more as he floated like a butterfly and stung like a bee on his way to winning the world heavyweight championship a record three times, becoming perhaps the most widely recognized person on the planet, died Friday in Phoenix. He was 74. Mr. Ali had long suffered from Parkinson’s syndrome. The condition was understood to be a consequence of his boxing career.
Arguably boxing's most celebrated athlete, heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali was also known for his public stance against the Vietnam War and his longtime battle with Parkinson's disease.


Born Cassius Clay in Louisville, Kentucky, in 1942, Muhammad Ali became an Olympic gold medalist in 1960 and the world heavyweight boxing champion in 1964. Following his suspension for refusing military service, Ali reclaimed the heavyweight title two more times during the 1970s, winning famed bouts against Joe Frazier and George Foreman along the way. Diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in 1984, Ali devoted much of his time to philanthropy, earning the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005. He died on June 3, 2016, in Phoenix, Arizona.

Boxer, philanthropist and social activist Muhammad Ali was born Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr. on January 17, 1942, in Louisville, Kentucky. Ali showed at an early age that he wasn't afraid of any bout—inside or outside of the ring. Growing up in the segregated South, he experienced racial prejudice and discrimination firsthand.

At the age of 12, Ali discovered his talent for boxing through an odd twist of fate. His bike was stolen, and Ali told a police officer, Joe Martin, that he wanted to beat up the thief. "Well, you better learn how to fight before you start challenging people," Martin reportedly told him at the time. In addition to being a police officer, Martin also trained young boxers at a local gym.

Ali started working with Martin to learn how to spar, and soon began his boxing career. In his first amateur bout in 1954, he won the fight by split decision. Ali went on to win the 1956 Golden Gloves tournament for novices in the light heavyweight class. Three years later, he won the National Golden Gloves Tournament of Champions, as well as the Amateur Athletic Union's national title for the light heavyweight division.

In 1960, Ali won a spot on the U.S. Olympic boxing team, and traveled to Rome, Italy, to compete. At 6' 3", Ali was an imposing figure in the ring, but he also became known for his lightning speed and fancy footwork. After winning his first three bouts, Ali defeated Zbigniew Pietrzkowski from Poland to win the light heavyweight gold medal.

After his Olympic victory, Ali was heralded as an American hero. He soon turned professional with the backing of the Louisville Sponsoring Group, and continued overwhelming all opponents in the ring. Ali took out British heavyweight champion Henry Cooper in 1963, and then knocked out Sonny Liston in 1964 to become the heavyweight champion of the world.

Often referring to himself as "the greatest," Ali was not afraid to sing his own praises. He was known for boasting about his skills before a fight and for his colorful descriptions and phrases. In one of his more famously quoted descriptions, Ali told reporters that he could "float like a butterfly, sting like a bee" in the boxing ring.

This bold public persona belied what was happening in Ali's personal life, however. He was doing some spiritual searching and decided to join the black Muslim group the Nation of Islam in 1964. At first he called himself "Cassius X" before settling on the name Muhammad Ali. (The boxer eventually converted to orthodox Islam during the 1970s.) 

Ali later started a different kind of fight with his outspoken views against the Vietnam War. Drafted into the military in April 1967, he refused to serve on the grounds that he was a practicing Muslim minister with religious beliefs that prevented him from fighting. He was arrested for committing a felony and almost immediately stripped of his world title and boxing license.

The U.S. Department of Justice pursued a legal case against Ali, denying his claim for conscientious objector status. He was found guilty of violating Selective Service laws and sentenced to five years in prison in June 1967, but remained free while appealing his conviction. Unable to compete professionally in the meantime, Ali missed more than three prime years of his athletic career. The U.S. Supreme Court eventually overturned the conviction in June 1971.

Prior to the Supreme Court's decision, Ali returned to the ring in 1970 with a win over Jerry Quarry. The following year, Ali took on Joe Frazier in what has been called the "Fight of the Century." Frazier and Ali went toe-to-toe for 14 rounds before Frazier dropped Ali with a vicious left hook in the 15th. Ali recovered quickly, but the judges awarded the decision to Frazier, handing Ali his first professional loss after 31 wins. Ali soon suffered a second loss, to Ken Norton, but he beat Frazier in a 1974 rematch.

Another legendary Ali fight, against undefeated heavyweight champion George Foreman, took place in 1974. Billed as the "Rumble in the Jungle," the bout was organized by promoter Don King and held in Kinshasa, Zaire. For once, Ali was seen as the underdog to the younger, massive Foreman, but he silenced his critics with a masterful performance. He baited Foreman into throwing wild punches with his "rope-a-dope" technique, before stunning his opponent with an eighth-round knockout to reclaim the heavyweight title.

Ali and Frazier locked horns for their grudge match in Quezon City, Philippines, in 1975. Dubbed the "Thrilla in Manila," the bout nearly went the distance, with both men delivering and absorbing tremendous punishment. However, Frazier's trainer threw in the towel after the 14th round, giving the hard-fought victory to Ali.

After losing his title to Leon Spinks in February 1978, Ali defeated him in a September rematch, becoming the first boxer to win the heavyweight championship three times. Following a brief retirement, he returned to the ring to face Larry Holmes in 1980, but was overmatched against the younger champion. Following one final loss in 1981, to Trevor Berbick, the boxing great retired from the sport.

In his retirement, Ali devoted much of his time to philanthropy. He announced that he had Parkinson's disease in 1984, a degenerative neurological condition, and was involved in raising funds for the Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center in Phoenix, Arizona. Over the years, Ali also supported the Special Olympics and the Make-A-Wish Foundation, among other organizations. In 1996, he lit the Olympic cauldron at the Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta, an emotional moment in sports history.

Ali traveled to numerous countries, including Mexico and Morocco, to help out those in need. In 1998, he was chosen to be a United Nations Messenger of Peace because of his work in developing nations.

In 2005, Ali received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President George W. Bush. He also opened the Muhammad Ali Center in his hometown of Louisville, Kentucky, that same year. "I am an ordinary man who worked hard to develop the talent I was given," he said. "Many fans wanted to build a museum to acknowledge my achievements. I wanted more than a building to house my memorabilia. I wanted a place that would inspire people to be the best that they could be at whatever they chose to do, and to encourage them to be respectful of one another."

Despite the progression of Parkinson's and the onset of spinal stenosis, Ali remained active in public life. He was on hand to celebrate the inauguration of the first African-American president in January 2009, when Barack Obama was sworn into office. Soon after the inauguration, Ali received the President's Award from the NAACP for his public service efforts.

Things began taking a turn for the worse within a few years. In early 2015, Ali was hospitalized for a severe urinary tract infection after having battled pneumonia. He was hospitalized again in early June 2016 for what was reportedly a respiratory issue. The revered athlete passed away on the evening of June 3, 2016, at a Phoenix, Arizona facility.

Ali was survived by his fourth wife, Yolanda, whom he had been married to since 1986. The couple had one son, Asaad, and Ali had several children from previous relationships, including daughter Laila Ali, who followed in his footsteps by becoming a champion boxer.

Universally regarded as one of the greatest boxers in history, Ali's stature as a legend continued to grow even as his physical state diminished. He continues to be celebrated not only for his remarkable athletic skills but for his willingness to speak his mind and his courage to challenge the status quo.


 Heavy weight boxer Muhammad Ali seen after knocking-out his British challenger Richard Dunn in the fifth round of their fight, in Munich, Germany, on May 25, 1976. Born as Cassius Clay, boxing legend Muhammad Ali, dubbed as 'The Greatest,' died on June 3 in Phoenix, Ariz., at the age of 74. (EPA)

Heavy weight boxer Muhammad Ali seen after knocking-out his British challenger Richard Dunn in the fifth round of their fight, in Munich, Germany, on May 25, 1976. Born as Cassius Clay, boxing legend Muhammad Ali, dubbed as 'The Greatest,' died on June 3 in Phoenix, Ariz., at the age of 74. (EPA)

 A Muhammad Ali robe is displayed at the "I Am The Greatest, Muhammad Ali" exhibition at the O2 arena, which hosts high profile boxing fights in London, on June 4. (Matt Dunham/Associated Press)

A Muhammad Ali robe is displayed at the "I Am The Greatest, Muhammad Ali" exhibition at the O2 arena, which hosts high profile boxing fights in London, on June 4. (Matt Dunham/Associated Press)

 Muhammad Ali and Floyd Patterson pose after a pre-fight physical in New York, on Sept. 11, 1972. (Don Hogan Charles/The New York Times)

Muhammad Ali and Floyd Patterson pose after a pre-fight physical in New York, on Sept. 11, 1972. (Don Hogan Charles/The New York Times)

 Filipino boxing aficionado Marco Jose Revilla pays respect to an artwork by Monica Jane Valerio depicting Muhammad Ali inside the 'Ali Mall', the country's first mall named after the legendary boxing champion displayed in Quezon City, northeast of Manila, Philippines, on June 4. (Mark R. Cristino/EPA)

Filipino boxing aficionado Marco Jose Revilla pays respect to an artwork by Monica Jane Valerio depicting Muhammad Ali inside the 'Ali Mall', the country's first mall named after the legendary boxing champion displayed in Quezon City, northeast of Manila, Philippines, on June 4. (Mark R. Cristino/EPA)

 Muhammad Ali poses with gloves in this undated portrait. (Action Images/Sporting Pictures)

Muhammad Ali poses with gloves in this undated portrait. (Action Images/Sporting Pictures)

 Muhammad Ali yells during a news conference in New York on Aug. 29, 1974. Ali, the magnificent heavyweight champion whose fast fists and irrepressible personality transcended sports and captivated the world, has died according to a statement released by his family on June 3, 2016. He was 74. (Ron Frehm/Associated Press)

Muhammad Ali yells during a news conference in New York on Aug. 29, 1974. Ali, the magnificent heavyweight champion whose fast fists and irrepressible personality transcended sports and captivated the world, has died according to a statement released by his family on June 3, 2016. He was 74. (Ron Frehm/Associated Press)

 US boxer Muhammad Ali (left) taking on Floyd Patterson at the Las Vegas Convention Center in Las Vegas, Nev., on Nov. 22, 1965. (Las Vegas News Bureau via EPA)

US boxer Muhammad Ali (left) taking on Floyd Patterson at the Las Vegas Convention Center in Las Vegas, Nev., on Nov. 22, 1965. (Las Vegas News Bureau via EPA)

 Muhammad Ali shouts during the weigh-in for his fight against Joe Bugner at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, Nev., on Feb. 14, 1973. (Las Vegas News Bureau via EPA)

Muhammad Ali shouts during the weigh-in for his fight against Joe Bugner at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, Nev., on Feb. 14, 1973. (Las Vegas News Bureau via EPA)

 Heavyweight boxing champion Cassius Clay arrived at his Boston training camp to launch final preparations for the title rematch with Sonny Liston. The champion mugged a bit for the benefit of the patrons of his training site at the Schine Inn at Chiopee, and scrawled on posters advertising the fight; "Bear On The Loose." Clay's pet name for Liston is "The Bear." (Associated Press)

Heavyweight boxing champion Cassius Clay arrived at his Boston training camp to launch final preparations for the title rematch with Sonny Liston. The champion mugged a bit for the benefit of the patrons of his training site at the Schine Inn at Chiopee, and scrawled on posters advertising the fight; "Bear On The Loose." Clay's pet name for Liston is "The Bear." (Associated Press)

 Young heavyweight boxer Cassius Clay, who later changed his name to Muhammad Ali, points to a sign he wrote on a chalk board on Nov. 15, 1962 in his dressing room before his fight against Archie Moore in Los Angeles. (Harold P. Matosian/Associated Press)

Young heavyweight boxer Cassius Clay, who later changed his name to Muhammad Ali, points to a sign he wrote on a chalk board on Nov. 15, 1962 in his dressing room before his fight against Archie Moore in Los Angeles. (Harold P. Matosian/Associated Press)

 Former heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali addresses a gathering at a Black Muslim convention in Chicago on Feb. 25, 1968 . (Associated Press)

Former heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali addresses a gathering at a Black Muslim convention in Chicago on Feb. 25, 1968 . (Associated Press)

 Muhammad Ali with family at his training camp in Deer Lake, Pa., on Aug. 24, 1973. Belinda Boyd, Ali’s wife, is at right; their children are Muhammad Jr., 1; twin daughters Rasheda and Jamillah, 3; Maryum, 5. (William E. Sauro/The New York Times)

Muhammad Ali with family at his training camp in Deer Lake, Pa., on Aug. 24, 1973. Belinda Boyd, Ali’s wife, is at right; their children are Muhammad Jr., 1; twin daughters Rasheda and Jamillah, 3; Maryum, 5. (William E. Sauro/The New York Times)

 Muhammad Ali, or Cassius Clay at the time, beats his chest in triumph after toppling Britain's Beatles at his training camp in Miami Beach, Fla., on Feb. 18, 1964. The Beatles, left to right: Paul McCartney; John Lennon; George Harrison and Ringo Starr, were on Holiday in the resort after their American tour. (Associated Press)

Muhammad Ali, or Cassius Clay at the time, beats his chest in triumph after toppling Britain's Beatles at his training camp in Miami Beach, Fla., on Feb. 18, 1964. The Beatles, left to right: Paul McCartney; John Lennon; George Harrison and Ringo Starr, were on Holiday in the resort after their American tour. (Associated Press)

 Muhammad Ali joking with a baby during a work out for his fight against Ron Lyle at the Tropicana in Las Vegas, Nev., on May 12 1975. Born Cassius Clay, boxing legend Muhammad Ali, dubbed as 'The Greatest,' died on 03 June 2016 in Phoenix, Ariz., at the age of 74. (Las Vegas News Bureau via EPA)

Muhammad Ali joking with a baby during a work out for his fight against Ron Lyle at the Tropicana in Las Vegas, Nev., on May 12 1975. Born Cassius Clay, boxing legend Muhammad Ali, dubbed as 'The Greatest,' died on 03 June 2016 in Phoenix, Ariz., at the age of 74. (Las Vegas News Bureau via EPA)

 Muhammad Ali jokes with television sports commentator Howard Cosell before the start of the Olympic boxing trials, in West Point, NY., on Aug. 7, 1972. (Associated Press)

Muhammad Ali jokes with television sports commentator Howard Cosell before the start of the Olympic boxing trials, in West Point, NY., on Aug. 7, 1972. (Associated Press)

 Muhammad Ali spars with a young admirer at the Elma Lewis benefit held at the Hynes Auditorium in Boston. (Bill Curtis/Globe Staff)

Muhammad Ali spars with a young admirer at the Elma Lewis benefit held at the Hynes Auditorium in Boston. (Bill Curtis/Globe Staff)

 Muhammad Ali at Logan airport in Boston, talked to a crowd from his bus while changing planes. (John Blanding/Globe Staff)

Muhammad Ali at Logan airport in Boston, talked to a crowd from his bus while changing planes. (John Blanding/Globe Staff)

 Muhammad Ali trains at his camp in Deer Lake, Pa., on Jan. 17, 1974. Ali, a three-time world heavyweight boxing champion whose brash self-confidence and personal convictions made him the most charismatic and controversial sports figure of the 20th century, died in Phoenix on June 3, 2016. He was 74. (Robert Walker/The New York Times)

Muhammad Ali trains at his camp in Deer Lake, Pa., on Jan. 17, 1974. Ali, a three-time world heavyweight boxing champion whose brash self-confidence and personal convictions made him the most charismatic and controversial sports figure of the 20th century, died in Phoenix on June 3, 2016. He was 74. (Robert Walker/The New York Times)

 Muhammad Ali watches as defending world champion George Foreman goes down to the canvas in the eighth round of their WBA/WBC championship match in Kinshasa, Zaire on Oct. 30, 1974. (Associated Press)

Muhammad Ali watches as defending world champion George Foreman goes down to the canvas in the eighth round of their WBA/WBC championship match in Kinshasa, Zaire on Oct. 30, 1974. (Associated Press)

 Joe Frazier (right) lands a left hook on Muhammad Ali during the first of their three epic battles at Madison Square Garden in New York City on March 8, 1971. The Fight of the Century (also known as The Fight) is the title boxing writers and historians have given to the boxing match between champion Joe Frazier (26-0, 23 KOs) and challenger Muhammad Ali (31-0, 25 KOs). (Action Images)

Joe Frazier (right) lands a left hook on Muhammad Ali during the first of their three epic battles at Madison Square Garden in New York City on March 8, 1971. The Fight of the Century (also known as The Fight) is the title boxing writers and historians have given to the boxing match between champion Joe Frazier (26-0, 23 KOs) and challenger Muhammad Ali (31-0, 25 KOs). (Action Images)

 A large crowd turns out as Muhammad Ali visited Harlem on Dec. 9, 1974. (Neal Boenzi/The New York Times)

A large crowd turns out as Muhammad Ali visited Harlem on Dec. 9, 1974. (Neal Boenzi/The New York Times)

 Muhammad Ali evades a left from Joe Frazier during their title bout, the “Fight of the Century,” at Madison Square Garden in New York, on March 8, 1971. Five years after being stripped of his titles for refusing to register for the draft, Ali suffered the first defeat of his career here. Ali died in Phoenix on June 3. (Larry C. Morris/The New York Times)

Muhammad Ali evades a left from Joe Frazier during their title bout, the “Fight of the Century,” at Madison Square Garden in New York, on March 8, 1971. Five years after being stripped of his titles for refusing to register for the draft, Ali suffered the first defeat of his career here. Ali died in Phoenix on June 3. (Larry C. Morris/The New York Times)

 Joe Frazier is directed to a corner by referee Arthur Marcante after Frazier knocked down Muhammad Ali during the 15th round of the title bout in Madison Square Garden in New York on March 8, 1971. Frazier won the bout over Ali by decision. (Associated Press)

Joe Frazier is directed to a corner by referee Arthur Marcante after Frazier knocked down Muhammad Ali during the 15th round of the title bout in Madison Square Garden in New York on March 8, 1971. Frazier won the bout over Ali by decision. (Associated Press)

 Muhammad Ali (formerly Cassius Clay) trains at his Pennsylvania mountain retreat in Owigsburg on Aug., 27, 1974 for his fight against George Foreman in Zaire. (Action Images)

Muhammad Ali (formerly Cassius Clay) trains at his Pennsylvania mountain retreat in Owigsburg on Aug., 27, 1974 for his fight against George Foreman in Zaire. (Action Images)

 Philippines President Ferdinand Marcos, left, applauds as challenger Joe Frazier, right, makes some remarks about world champion Muhammad Ali, second from left, during their call on Marcos at the Malacanang Palace in Manila, Philippines on Sept. 18, 1975. (Jess Tan/Associated Press)

Philippines President Ferdinand Marcos, left, applauds as challenger Joe Frazier, right, makes some remarks about world champion Muhammad Ali, second from left, during their call on Marcos at the Malacanang Palace in Manila, Philippines on Sept. 18, 1975. (Jess Tan/Associated Press)

 Spray flies from the head of challenger Joe Frazier as heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali connects with a right in the ninth round of their title fight in Manila, Philippines on Oct. 1, 1975. (Mitsunori Chigita/Associated Press)

Spray flies from the head of challenger Joe Frazier as heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali connects with a right in the ninth round of their title fight in Manila, Philippines on Oct. 1, 1975. (Mitsunori Chigita/Associated Press)

 Moroccan King Hassan II (right) decorating former World Heavyweight Champion Muhammad Ali during a ceremony in the Royal Palace in Rabat on Jan. 15, 1998. (Abdelhak Senna/AFP/Getty Images)

Moroccan King Hassan II (right) decorating former World Heavyweight Champion Muhammad Ali during a ceremony in the Royal Palace in Rabat on Jan. 15, 1998. (Abdelhak Senna/AFP/Getty Images)

 Argentinian boxer Sergio "Maravilla" Martinez (left) and the president of the World Boxing Council, Jose Sulaiman (right), place the crown of "King of Boxing" on former American boxer Muhammad Ali during the 50th Convention of the World Boxing Council in Cancun in this Dec. 3, 2012. (Victor Ruiz Garcia/REUTERS)

Argentinian boxer Sergio "Maravilla" Martinez (left) and the president of the World Boxing Council, Jose Sulaiman (right), place the crown of "King of Boxing" on former American boxer Muhammad Ali during the 50th Convention of the World Boxing Council in Cancun in this Dec. 3, 2012. (Victor Ruiz Garcia/REUTERS)

 American swimmer Janet Evans passes the Olympic flame to Muhammad Ali during the 1996 Summer Olympic Games Opening Ceremony in Atlanta on July 19, 1996. (Michael Probst/Associated Press)

American swimmer Janet Evans passes the Olympic flame to Muhammad Ali during the 1996 Summer Olympic Games Opening Ceremony in Atlanta on July 19, 1996. (Michael Probst/Associated Press)

 Muhammad Ali, reknown as 'The Greatest' fighter of all times, poses next to a Wheaties 'The Breakfast of Champions' poster during the unveiling of the 75th Anniversary cereal box in his honor in New York, on Feb. 4, 1999. 'Muhammad Ali is quite possibly the most recognized sports figure of our time,' said Wheaties market manager Jim Murphy. 'That's why we are especially proud to recognize him on our box during our 75th anniversary celebration.' (Bebeto Matthews/Associated Press)

Muhammad Ali, reknown as 'The Greatest' fighter of all times, poses next to a Wheaties 'The Breakfast of Champions' poster during the unveiling of the 75th Anniversary cereal box in his honor in New York, on Feb. 4, 1999. 'Muhammad Ali is quite possibly the most recognized sports figure of our time,' said Wheaties market manager Jim Murphy. 'That's why we are especially proud to recognize him on our box during our 75th anniversary celebration.' (Bebeto Matthews/Associated Press)

 Orson Welles (from left), US actor-singer Dean Martin, and Sports announcer Howard Cosell laughing at US boxer Muhammad Ali during the Dean Martin Roast of Muhammad Ali at the MGM in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Jan. 18, 1976. (Las Vegas News Bureau via EPA)

Orson Welles (from left), US actor-singer Dean Martin, and Sports announcer Howard Cosell laughing at US boxer Muhammad Ali during the Dean Martin Roast of Muhammad Ali at the MGM in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Jan. 18, 1976. (Las Vegas News Bureau via EPA)

 Muhammad Ali is greeted in downtown Kinshasa, Zaire on Sept. 17, 1974 who was in Zaire to fight George Foreman. (Associated Press)

Muhammad Ali is greeted in downtown Kinshasa, Zaire on Sept. 17, 1974 who was in Zaire to fight George Foreman. (Associated Press)

 Boxing legend Muhammad Ali stands with his wife Yolanda as he is introduced before the welterweight fight between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Shane Mosley at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada on May 1, 2010. (Steve Marcus/Reuters)

Boxing legend Muhammad Ali stands with his wife Yolanda as he is introduced before the welterweight fight between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Shane Mosley at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada on May 1, 2010. (Steve Marcus/Reuters)

 WBC and WIBA super middleweight champion Laila Ali is kissed by her father, boxing great Muhammad Ali, at the MCI Center in Washington on June 11, 2005. (Jason Reed/Reuters)

WBC and WIBA super middleweight champion Laila Ali is kissed by her father, boxing great Muhammad Ali, at the MCI Center in Washington on June 11, 2005. (Jason Reed/Reuters)

 President George W. Bush awards boxing legend Muhammad Ali with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, as Ali's wife Lonnie watches, during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House in Washington on s Nov. 9, 2005. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

President George W. Bush awards boxing legend Muhammad Ali with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, as Ali's wife Lonnie watches, during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House in Washington on s Nov. 9, 2005. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

 Men pass a large sign by an escalator near the entrance of the "I Am The Greatest, Muhammad Ali" exhibition at the O2 arena, which hosts high profile boxing fights in London, on June 4. Ali, the magnificent heavyweight champion whose fast fists and irrepressible personality transcended sports and captivated the world, died according to a statement released Friday by his family. He was 74. (Matt Dunham/Associated Press)

Men pass a large sign by an escalator near the entrance of the "I Am The Greatest, Muhammad Ali" exhibition at the O2 arena, which hosts high profile boxing fights in London, on June 4. Ali, the magnificent heavyweight champion whose fast fists and irrepressible personality transcended sports and captivated the world, died according to a statement released Friday by his family. He was 74. (Matt Dunham/Associated Press)

 Muhammad Ali tapes his right hand for a training session at his camp in Deer Lake, Pa., on Jan. 17, 1974. (Robert Walker/The New York Times)

Muhammad Ali tapes his right hand for a training session at his camp in Deer Lake, Pa., on Jan. 17, 1974. (Robert Walker/The New York Times)

 US boxing great Muhammad Ali poses during the Crystal Award ceremony at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland on Jan. 28, 2006. (Andreas Meier/Reuters)

US boxing great Muhammad Ali poses during the Crystal Award ceremony at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland on Jan. 28, 2006. (Andreas Meier/Reuters)

 Heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali stands over fallen challenger Sonny Liston in Lewiston, Me., on May 25, 1965. (John Rooney/Associated Press )

Heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali stands over fallen challenger Sonny Liston in Lewiston, Me., on May 25, 1965. (John Rooney/Associated Press )

 Muhammad Ali knocks out Cleveland Williams at the Astrodome, Houston, 1966

Muhammad Ali knocks out Cleveland Williams at the Astrodome, Houston, 1966

 A flower placed on display as a tribute to the life of heavyweight boxer Muhammad Ali at the "I Am The Greatest, Muhammad Ali" exhibition at the O2 arena, which hosts high profile boxing fights in London, on June 4. Ali, the magnificent heavyweight champion whose fast fists and irrepressible personality transcended sports and captivated the world, died according to a statement released Friday by his family. He was 74. (Matt Dunham/Associated Press)

A flower placed on display as a tribute to the life of heavyweight boxer Muhammad Ali at the "I Am The Greatest, Muhammad Ali" exhibition at the O2 arena, which hosts high profile boxing fights in London, on June 4. Ali, the magnificent heavyweight champion whose fast fists and irrepressible personality transcended sports and captivated the world, died according to a statement released Friday by his family. He was 74. (Matt Dunham/Associated Press)

The Laughing Heart - Charles Bukowski

Charles Bukowski was a prolific underground writer who used his his poetry and prose to depict the depravity of urban life and the downtrodden in American society. A cult hero, Bukowski relied on experience, emotion, and imagination in his work, using direct language and violent and sexual imagery. While some critics found his style offensive, others claimed that Bukowski satirized the machismo attitude through his routine use of sex, alcohol abuse, and violence. “Without trying to make himself look good, much less heroic, Bukowski writes with a nothing-to-lose truthfulness which sets him apart from most other ‘autobiographical’ novelists and poets,” commented Stephen Kessler in the San Francisco Review of Books, adding: “Firmly in the American tradition of the maverick, Bukowski writes with no apologies from the frayed edge of society.” Michael Lally in Village Voice maintained that “Bukowski is…a phenomenon. He has established himself as a writer with a consistent and insistent style based on what he projects as his ‘personality,’ the result of hard, intense living.”

Born in Germany, Bukowski was brought to the United States at the age of two. His father believed in firm discipline and often beat Bukowski for the smallest offenses, abuse Bukowski detailed in his autobiographical coming-of-age novel, Ham on Rye (1982). A slight child, Bukowski was also bullied by boys his own age, and was frequently rejected by girls because of his bad complexion. “When Bukowski was 13,” wrote Ciotti, “one of [his friends] invited him to his father’s wine cellar and served him his first drink of alcohol: ‘It was magic,’ Bukowski would later write. ‘Why hadn’t someone told me?’”

In 1939, Bukowski began attending Los Angeles City College, dropping out at the beginning of World War II and moving to New York to become a writer. The next few years were spent writing and traveling and collecting numerous rejection slips. By 1946 Bukowski had decided to give up his writing aspirations, embarking on a ten-year binge that took him across the country. Ending up near death in Los Angeles, Bukowski started writing again, though he would continue to drink and cultivate his reputation as a hard-living poet. He did not begin his professional writing career until the age of thirty-five, and like other contemporaries, began by publishing in underground newspapers, especially in local papers such as Open City and the L.A. Free Press. “Published by small, underground presses and ephemeral mimeographed little magazines,” described Jay Dougherty in Contemporary Novelists, “Bukowski has gained popularity, in a sense, through word of mouth.” “The main character in his poems and short stories, which are largely autobiographical, is usually a down-and-out writer [Henry Chinaski] who spends his time working at marginal jobs (and getting fired from them), getting drunk and making love with a succession of bimbos and floozies,” related Ciotti. “Otherwise, he hangs out with fellow losers—whores, pimps, alcoholics, drifters.”

Bukowski wrote more than forty books of poetry, prose and novels. Flower, Fist, and Bestial Wail (1959), Bukowski’s first book of poetry, covers the major interests and themes that occupy many of his works, especially “the sense of a desolate, abandoned world,” R. R. Cuscaden pointed out in the Outsider. In addition to desolation, Bukowski’s free verse tackles the absurdities of life, especially in relation to death. “Bukowski’s world, scored and grooved by the impersonal instruments of civilized industrial society, by 20th-century knowledge and experience, remains essentially a world in which meditation and analysis have little part,” asserted John William Corrington in Northwest Review. The subject matter of this world is drinking, sex, gambling, and music; the Bukowski style, however, is “a crisp, hard voice; an excellent ear and eye for measuring out the lengths of lines; and an avoidance of metaphor where a lively anecdote will do the same dramatic work,” maintained Ken Tucker in the Village Voice. It Catches My Heart in Its Hands (1963) collects poetry written between the years of 1955 and 1963. “Individual poems merge to form together a body of work unrivalled in kind and very nearly unequalled in quality by Bukowski’s contemporaries,” stated Corrington. Over the course of thirty years, Bukowski published an astonishing number of collections of poetry and prose, as well as many novels. Kenneth Rexroth asserted in the New York Times Book Review that Bukowski “belongs in the small company of poets of real, not literary, alienation.”

Though Bukowski died of leukemia in 1994, his posthumous career has proven to be just as prolific. Due in part to the unique relationship he had with his publisher, John Martin, the editor of Black Sparrow Books, Bukowski’s massive output continues to make an appearance in book form every other year or so. Posthumous works, such as The People Look Like Flowers At Last: New Poems (2008), address subjects similar to those in his first collection. Reviewing the posthumously-published Slouching Toward Nirvana (2005) for the New Yorker, critic Adam Kirsch related an interview in which Bukowski described his readership as “the defeated, the demented and the damned,” adding that the “mixture of boast and complaint exactly mirrors the coyness of Bukowski’s poetry, which is at once misanthropic and comradely, aggressively vulgar and clandestinely sensitive.” Kirsch continued:”Bukowski’s poems are best appreciated not as individual verbal artifacts but as ongoing installments in the tale of his true adventures, like a comic book or a movie serial. They are strongly narrative, drawing from an endless supply of anecdotes that typically involve a bar, a skid-row hotel, a horse race, a girlfriend, or any permutation thereof. Bukowski’s free verse is really a series of declarative sentences broken up into a long, narrow column, the short lines giving an impression of speed and terseness even when the language is sentimental or clichéd.” Of the volume—Bukowski’s ninth posthumous collection—Kirsch said “these ‘new poems’ are just like the old poems, perhaps a shade more repetitive, but not immediately recognizable as second-rate work or leftovers,” accounting, perhaps, for Bukowski’s continued success in the literary marketplace.

Similar to his poetry in subject matter, Bukowski’s short stories also deal with sex, violence, and the absurdities of life. In his first collection of short stories, Erections, Ejaculations, Exhibitions, and General Tales of Ordinary Madness (1972), Bukowski “writes as an unregenerate lowbrow contemptuous of our claims to superior being,” stated Thomas R. Edwards in the New York Review of Books. The protagonists in the stories in Hot Water Music (1983) live in cheap hotels and are often struggling underground writers, similar to Bukowski himself. Bukowski’s main autobiographical figure in these stories, as well as in many of his novels, is Henry Chinaski, a thinly veiled alter-ego (Bukowski’s full name was Henry Charles Bukowski, Jr. and his friends knew him as Hank). “Lives of quiet desperation explode in apparently random and unmotivated acts of bizarre violence,” described Michael F. Harper in his Los Angeles Times Book Review piece on the book. Bukowski continued his examination of “broken people” in such novels as Post Office (1971) and Ham on Rye (1982), giving both a heavily autobiographical tilt. Ben Reuven, writing in the Los Angeles Times Book Review, described the “first-person reminiscences” in Ham on Rye as “taut, vivid, intense, sometimes poignant, [and] often hilarious.” Continuing the examination of his younger years, Bukowski wrote the screenplay for the movie Barfly, released in 1987 and starring Mickey Rourke. The movie focuses on three days in the life of Bukowski at the age of twenty-four. Michael Wilmington concluded in the Los Angeles Times: “Whatever its flaws, [Barfly] does something more films should do: It opens up territory, opens up a human being. The worst of it has the edge of coughed-up whimsy and barroom bragging. But the best has the shock of truth and the harsh sweet kiss of dreams.” Bukowski’s experiences with the making of Barfly became the basis of his novel Hollywood (1989), which traces the humorous, convoluted path from script to screen of a movie called Barfly written by the novel’s protagonist, Henry Chinaski, now an old man.

Bukowski’s work has been collected and re-collected in various readers, anthologies, and selected works. Run with the Hunted (1993) is an anthology of Bukowski’s stories and poetry, placed chronologically in the periods in which they were written, not published. It provides a solid overview of Bukowski’s work and—given its autobiographical nature—his life. Benjamin Segedin, writing in Booklist, wrote of Bukowski’s works: “Less celebrations of self-destruction than honest self-portraiture, they reveal him in all his ugliness as an outsider on the verge of respectability.” Segedin continued, “Here is a collection of blunt, hard-edged angry stuff as uncompromising as you will ever hope to find.” Bukowski’s previously unpublished work, introduced posthumously by Black Sparrow Press in Betting on the Muse: Poems & Stories (1996), gives a wider overview of the verse that made him, according to a Publishers Weekly contributor, the “original take-no-prisoners poet.” Ray Olson, writing for Booklist, found his stories and poems to be “effortlessly, magnetically readable, especially if you are susceptible to their bargain-basement existentialist charm.”

Bukowski’s life via his letters is chronicled in both Screams from the Balcony: Selected Letters 1960-1970 (1994) and Reach for the Sun: Selected Letters, 1978-1994 (2002), which covered the last years of the poet’s life. In letters to his publishers, editors, friends, and fellow poets, Bukowski railed against critics, praised the writers who first inspired him, and wrote a great deal about three of his favorite subjects: drinking, women, and the racetrack. “Above all, however, they reveal a man dedicated to his craft,” noted William Gargan in Library Journal. But perhaps the most intimate look into Bukowski’s life is provided by The Captain Is out to Lunch and the Sailors Have Taken over the Ship (2002), a collection of journal entries from the poet’s last years. It begins with his usual celebrations and ruminations on gambling, women, and drinking, but takes on “tragic overtones” as the writer comes to terms with his diagnosis of leukemia, reported Gerald Locklin in Review of Contemporary Fiction. “These reflections approaching endgame reveal the complex humanity of a too-often caricatured figure who beat seemingly prohibitive odds to achieve the destiny he came to embrace as a world-class writer of uncompromising novels, stories, and poems.”

This article is courtesy of Poetry Foundation and can be read here.