Sun Ra Day

May 22, 1914 – May 30, 1993

Sound Of Joy

Composer, bandleader, piano and synthesizer player, poet, and philosopher Sun Ra (born Herman Poole Blount) was born on May 22, 1914, in Birmingham, Alabama.

By the age of 12, he was playing the piano, composing, and arranging. He avidly attended performances by bands led by Fletcher Henderson, Duke Ellington, Fats Waller, and others when they passed through his city.

As a teenager, he reportedly had the ability to hear a big band performance once and then transcribe it in its entirety from memory.

In 1934, Sun Ra began his professional career co-directing an ensemble with a former teacher named Ethel Harper. After her departure, the group became known as the “Sonny Blount Orchestra.”

After a year of deep musical study, while attending the Alabama Agriculture and Mechanical University on a scholarship, Ra’s path was forever altered in 1937 when he claimed to have visited the planet Saturn during a deep meditation.

Following this experience, he reformed his band, and by 1946, he had relocated to Chicago where he made his recording debut that year with singer Wynonie Harris on the single “Dig This Boogie/Lightning Struck the Poorhouse.”

During the early 1960s, Sun Ra formed his “Arkestra” in New York and later moved their home base to the Germantown section of Philadelphia. They toured Europe and the West Coast in the late 1960s.

Ra’s “Space Music” defies categorization and was among the first examples of collective freeform improvisation.

Sun Ra’s “Arkestra” performed at the 1988 “Live Under the Sky Festival” in Tokyo, Japan.

Interview with Sun Ra