By Andy Smith, Editor
While the deluxe edition of the Joshua Tree may be the first
introduction for some U2 fans to the poetry of Allen Ginsberg
(featured on the track "Drunk Chicken/America"), Bono has long been a
fan of Ginsberg's work, and Ginsberg has long been a friend of rock and roll.
Bono's tributes to the late Beat poet, practicing Buddhist, and
part-time punk rock rapper include an interview segment on a recent
Ginsberg DVD and verbal props in his litany of great Americans listed
in the Liberty Medal acceptance speech.
Tucked away at the backend of a rarities disc and clocking in at less
than two minutes, "Drunk Chicken/America" begs more than the casual
listen and deserves better than the reputation as a throwaway track
of spoken word spewed over a studio prank.
That said, it's not the stellar standout for either U2 or Ginsberg
that we might have hoped for. U2 have better experimental tracks and
many more powerful renditions of the poem "America" are in
circulation. Even still, the sweet collaboration conveys the
enigmatic spirit of what makes both artists enigmatic.
Before this, one of Ginsberg's more impressive poetic offerings on a
rock album arrived with the Clash's Combat Rock. There, Ginsberg
lends verse the track "Ghetto Defendant" where in one line he
references the poet Arthur Rimbaud as "the ghetto prince of gutter poets."
U2 are not alone among rock stars who have worked with the
counterculture bard or admired Ginsberg's contribution to American
culture. Bob Dylan, Lou Reed, Patti Smith, Phillip Glass, and Sonic
Youth are among his admirers.
Born in June 1926 and with us until April 1997, Ginsberg lives on in
his words. His repuration as a great American writer has only grown
in the decade since his passing.
For more information about the legacy of Allen Ginsberg, visit the
Allen Ginsberg trust at www.allenginsberg.org