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The Wisdom of Sun Ra

Sun Ra’s Polemical Broadsheets and Streetcorner Leaflets

From the Arkestra to his experiments with synthesizers, Sun Ra was one of the most inventive jazz musicians in history. Yet until now, there has not been a collection of his earliest writings that reveal the beginnings of his work as philosopher, mystic, and Afro-Futurist. This new volume unveils over forty newly discovered typewritten broadsheets on which Sun Ra expounded his wholly unique philosophical message. 

While in Chicago during the mid-1950s, Sun Ra preached on street corners and occasionally created scripts to accompany his lectures—intricate texts that invoke science fiction, Biblical prophecy, etymology, and black nationalism. Until this point, the only broadsheet known to exist was one given to John Coltrane in 1956. These newly unearthed writings attest to the provocative brilliance that inspired Coltrane. Sun Ra annotated many of them by hand, and together the sheets reveal fascinating new aspects of his worldview.

The Wisdom of Sun Ra is an invaluable compendium of writings by one of the most intriguing and influential jazz figures of the century.

144 pages | 56 color plates | 6 1/2 x 9 1/2 | © 2006

Black Studies

Chicago and Illinois

Music: General Music

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"Known for his talent as a jazz composer, bandleader and keyboardist . . . Sun Ra also made a name for himself with his ’cosmic philosophy,’ which curious fans everywhere can now read thanks to The Wisdom of Sun-Ra. . . . For those wanting to look further into Sun Ra’s philosophies—and willing to spend the $20 to do so—The Wisdom of Sun-Ra contains a treasure trove of material."

Roxana Hadadi | Jazz Times

"John Corbett’s selection offers a fascinating window on to the weird world of one of the 20th century’s most influential musicians."—Rachel Aspden, New Statesman

Rachel Aspden | New Statesman

"Includes beautiful reproductions of the dog-eared broadsheets, with full transcriptions in the second half of the book. As interesting as the writings are in their own right, they also offer powerful insights into the personality and philosophy that was central to Ra’s later work."

Peter Margasak | Chicago Reader

"Words are, for Ra, plastic things, and the skill of Ra the verbal sculptor reveals hidden unities. . . . Indeed, his attitude towards his audience is continuously provocative."

Tom Perchard | The Wire

"Every one of these essays has the right balance of shocking pull quotes and elliptical statements to make you keep reading. . . . Revealing."

Ben Ratliff | Bookforum

"This collection of his early writings illuminates his journey from street-corner Egyptologist and religious proclaimer to the innovative bandleader proclaiming alien origins whose music has influenced artists from John Coltrane to Sonic Youth. . . . The publication of this book offers a visit to a time where we can see some of Sun Ra’s earlier ideas, what shaped the later artist. Reading this collection makes you realize that you need to question what you see and define your own path, just like Sun Ra did."

Erik Sweet | Rain Taxi

Table of Contents

one of everything:  blount hermeneutics and the wisdom of ra
John Corbett
broadsheet images
what america should consider
jesus said, "let the negro bury the negro."
language of gods
spo de o de........hoc way.....
a spook sho’ is a dragg, man.....
he’s a dragg
satan is the god of the spooks negroes are the children of the "devil"
the negro is a burden to the white man!
message to the spook
negroes are not men
jacob in the land of u.s.
there’s a nigger in the woodpile
the way of the cross
there are two ethiopias
days of vengence
the light isG
the true way to life
wake up! wake up! wake up!
the bible was not written for negroes!!!!!!
the great whore
little i’s i love you
i don’t give a hoot
big brother left you holding the bag!
the stumbling block
moms & pops
the poor little rich one: the prince of this world
neptune is rex...
the ruler with the iron fork...
johnny one note
"a nigger is a mess"
why don’t you turn again!
the god of israel
united states at the crossroads
solution to the negro problem
[illegible title] it is time to discuss
basic truths
humpty dumpty
keys to understanding the hidden meaning of the bible
the wisdom of ra
the reach for a better world
what negroes do to be saved
the truth
the truth about jesus
i have set beore you life and death--choose life
lucifer means light bearer
the end

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