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Fugs Co-Founder Kupferberg Passes

The brilliant, acerbic Tuli was 86

Marc Tracy
July 12, 2010
Tuli Kupferberg.(Steve Ben Israel)
Tuli Kupferberg.(Steve Ben Israel)

More sad news today: Tuli Kupferberg, the classic counter-cultural figure who achieved greatest fame for co-founding the satirical band The Fugs, has died at 86. This according to journalist Jon Kalish, who heard the news from a neighbor of Kupferberg’s.

Earlier this year, Kalish profiled Kupferberg on our Vox Tablet podcast series. Though blind, Kupferberg was then preparing the release of a new Fugs album and continuing to update his YouTube page with his “Daily Perverbs.”

Kupferberg was born to a Yiddish-speaking family in New York. He quickly disowned the Jewish religion (he was reportedly expelled from Hebrew School), but was deeply engaged with Jewish and Yiddish culture until the end, Kalish reported.

According to his Wikipedia page, Kupferberg is the person who, in Allen Ginsberg’s Howl, “jumped off the Brooklyn Bridge this actually happened and walked away unknown and forgotten into the ghostly daze of Chinatown”—except it was the neighboring Manhattan Bridge.

On the podcast, you can hear excerpts from several of Kupferberg’s songs. One goes like this:

Backwards Jewish soldiers
Strolling back from war
Hug your Gentile brothers
As you’ve done before
Presidents and premiers perish
Empires rise and fall
But hearts of all compassion
Still might save us all

Related: Fugging Around [Tablet Magazine]

Marc Tracy is a staff writer at The New Republic, and was previously a staff writer at Tablet. He tweets @marcatracy.