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Poets and Music
KEXP Documentaries presents Poets and Music! A 10-part series of radio stories that explore the interplay between the beat and the word. With episodes on our favorite KEXP poets who record with musicians, including: Jack Kerouac, Tom Waits, Ursula Rucker, Jim Carroll, Ken Nordine, Patti Smith, William S. Burroughs, Saul Williams and Gil Scott-Herron.


# 10 Ken Nordine

You may not know the name Ken Nordine, but you know his voice. He’s been all over radio and tv since 1938. Doing big campaigns like Tasters Choice, Levis and tons of movie trailers. He’s influenced great musicians like Bowie, Laurie Anderson and Tom Waits. He started making recordings with music in his basement in the 1950s and called his mix of voice and improvised music “word jazz”. And his volumes of word jazz, along with his famous exploration of paint hues called “Colors” are cult favorites with alternative musicians, poets and voice artist the world over.

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Ken Nordine from myspace.com

# 9 Gil Scott-Heron

Gil Scott-Heron's track “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” has influenced hip-hop artists from Mos Def to Tupac, from Franti to Kanye. And that influence was one of intelligence. Of talking directly to the powers that be. With respect and humor. Released in 1970, it’s still one of the most relevant political songs out there.In 2010 Gil Scott-Heron put out his first album in 15 years, I’m New Here. Gil Scott-Heron named the album “I’m New Here” not because he feels like a new person, but because his work is reaching a whole new audience.

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Gil Scott-Heron from myspace.com

# 8 Patti Smith

Patti Smith's 1975 album "Horses" is arguably one of the best debut albums of all time. It sparked the career of a poet and rock star that has lasted over four decades. "Our real battle cry was not to save rock and roll, but to inspire people to save it." Patti says. "Inspire people to remember its full range of possibilities. Our cultural voice, our poetic voice, our revolutionary voice, our sexual voice. That was our true mission, to inspire others." Over the years Patti Smith has released more than a dozen albums where she not only reads poetry but also fronts her own rock and roll band.

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Patti Smith from myspace.com

# 7 Steven Jesse Bernstein

Seattle-based poet Steven Jesse Bernstein struggled with mental illness and drug addiction all through his life. Sober through most of the 80′s, that decade was when he did his best work. He also became a regular master of ceremonies for Seattle counterculture rock shows, opening for bands like Soundgarden, The Crows and Nirvana. It was not only his gutter-level, dark poetry that made him an icon on the scene, but also his onstage antics, which included: urinating on a heckler, reading a poem while holding a live rodent in his mouth and throwing things at the audience like beer bottles or his wallet.

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Steven Jesse Bernstein from Myspace.com

# 6 Tom Waits

Tom Waits is a gravelly-voiced poet-musician who takes on characters and tells stories. These characters of Tom's are usually from the less upwardly mobile set of society: the drunkard, the penniless traveler, the gas-station attendant... He often puts the sweetest melodies with the saddest stories. Greatly influenced by Jack Kerouac, the leader of the beat generation, and crooners like Frank Sinatra from the 1950s, Tom Waits has put out over 20 albums since his debut "Closing Time" in 1973. In 2011 he was inducted in to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

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Tom Waits from Myspace.com

# 5 Saul Williams

Saul Williams has recorded with Rage Against The Machine, Janelle Monae, De La Soul and Nine Inch Nails. His first poem "Amethyst Rocks" landed him a leading role in the movie "Slam" and got him gigs opening for huge acts like The Roots, Gil Scott-Heron, The Fugees and KRS-1. His poetry rides the tension between his own personal details and the universal struggles of mankind.

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Saul Williams from Myspace.com

# 4 Jack Kerouac

Kerouac's novel "On The Road" led the way for the cultural movement "The Beat Generation" in the 1950's, creating a whole new atmosphere for artistic freedom. Jack Kerouac not only recorded with musicians but he also wrote many poems about music.

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Jack Kerouac - from Myspace.com

# 3 Ursula Rucker

Ursula Rucker has recorded her intense, personal poems with musicians like Jazzanova, King Britt and The Roots, along with fronting her own band. In this exclusive interview Ursula lays down her personal rules for creating art that is based in the honest revelation of character.

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Ursula Rucker - From Myspace.com

# 2 Jim Carroll

At 12 years of age Jim Carroll wrote “The Basketball Diaries”, which made him a star on the literary circuit. He also took the marriage of spoken word and music to new heights. As a recording poet he collaborated with Patti Smith, Pearl Jam, Rancid, Sonic Youth and fronted his own super tight punk band.

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Jim Carroll - From Myspace.com

# 1 William S. Burroughs

Known as one of the greatest novelists of the 20th century, Burroughs was also one of the first poets known to record with music. Known as the "Godfather of The Beat Generation," he worked with other poets Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac to start a counterculture creative group called the beatniks. This episode explores Burroughs work with musicians: Sonic Youth, Nirvana, Disposable Heroes of Hiphopracy among others.

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William S. Burroughs - From Myspace.com


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