The life and career of Lonnie Holley is far from commonplace know for both his artwork and music his pursuit of the arts came from unexpected beginnings which he believes involved divine intervention. His early life was chaotic. He came from a family of 27 children and moved around a lot, he was working when most kids of western civilisation today would be starting primary school. For a period of time he was fostered, moving between homes, far from what anyone would call a childhood.
Somehow, out of all this chaos came a gifted improviser, a gift which only came to light in 1979 when he started carving tombstones from industrial material found near his sister’s home. The tombstones were for her two children who had died in a house fire. He carried on carving and creating and showed some of his work to Richard Murray in 1981 who was the director of the Birmingham Museum of Art. His work was introduced to other art institutions and his work as continued to be acquired by the likes of the American Folk Art Museum and his work has even been displayed at the White House.
Alongside his visual work he also began creating some very original and improvised music. Like his art his sonic creations are the result of decades of evolving experimentation. Just Before Music was his first studio debut released in 2012 on Dust to Digital which was very well received. Keeping A Record Of It is the follow-up which is out this week on Dust to Digital. It features recordings made in 2006, 2010 and 2011 and guest performers include Cole Alexander from the Black Lips, Bradford Cox from Deerhunter, and visual artist Lillian Blades.
Here’s a small taster with Six Space Shuttles and 144,000 Elephants:
Early documentary on Lonnie from the mid-90’s
Lonnie teaching at Horace Greeley Elementary School, Chicago, IL, January, 2005