Dec 5, 2009

Brilliant, Singing

Ashleigh Brilliant is a writer and cartoonist, best known for his humorously illustrated, one-line postcards (see above example). I recently discovered Mr. Brilliant while doing research on the Human Be-In held in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park during the Summer of Love. I came across a set of radio pieces highlighting the sounds of Haight-Ashbury circa 1967. Amidst various interviews relating to the definition of "groovy" or the ideology of Free Love, were a few recordings of Ashleigh Brilliant performing live in Golden Gate Park.

His songs struck me as poignant and raw. Set to the tune of well-known songs, he changed the words to reflect the world he witnessed in the Haight-Ashbury during those times. At times these sound like countercultural anthems, at times they are snide criticisms of hippie materialism. From my understanding, he performed these songs regularly and never sang with accompaniment.

Unfortunately, I don't have a sound recording to share with Red Legacy readers. But here are the lyrics set to a tune you'll surely know.

From Haight Ashbury Song Book

"Haight-Ashbury The Beautiful"
(tune: "America the Beautiful")

O beautiful for hairy beard,
For psychedelic smiles,
For lava-lamps and costumes weird
And run-away juveniles.

Haight-Ashbury, Haight-Ashbury,
America unbound!
Within thy good old neighborhood:
The rising underground.

O beautiful for hippie feet
That walk without mishap
Through tourist trash on every street
And piles of canine crap.

Haight-Ashbury, Haight-Ashbury,
Your own conclusion draw--
Collapse entire or die by fire,
But never go bourgeois!

You can order his songbook, published in 1967, for $10 on Ashleigh Brilliant's website. Check it out at:

1 comment: