On June 25th, a great American songwriter/performer passed away unexpectedly. He was a clever man with a dedicated cadre of fans who watched his career with admiration, from the 1960’s to the present.
I am talking, of course, about Sky Saxon.
This was a man who pioneered something that rock music sorely needed: humility. Rather than elevate himself and his music above reality and above his audience, he stripped everything down. With his feet planted on the terra firma, Sky Saxon raised a rebellious fist. But his rebellion was not against Mom & Dad or against The Man. It was against the pretension of superstardom.
Sky Saxon was the progenitor of Garage Rock. Some credit him with inventing 60’s Punk, which laid the foundation for all the punk rock to follow. His band, The Seeds, became a seminal influence on hundreds of acts that followed.
Now, you may look at some YouTube videos of his early work with The Seeds and conclude, “This guy is just another hippie riding the wave of 60’s psychedelia dreck!” But you’d be wrong. Sky Saxon loved psychedelic music, but he understood the value of accessibility. Where Pink Floyd blasted listeners into outer space and Yes conjured fantastic worlds of druggy weirdness, Sky wanted people to simply GROOVE.
It was Sky Saxon who brought us back down to Earth. He showed us that rock music can be raw and sparse and still pack a wallop big enough to change your outlook on life. Like most unconventional people, Sky was something of an enigma. His music was straight-ahead, stripped-down Garage Rock, but his personal life and beliefs were a feathery gauze of eclectic Eastern mysticism and transcendental weirdness. There were two Sky’s, and in all likelihood myriad Sky’s.
On June 25th, Sky Saxon died. He was 63 years old.
In what is a typical turn of events, the passing of this great man was overshadowed by the passing of a man whose music and persona were diametrically opposed to Sky Saxon. Sky Saxon wasn’t just a performer; he was a member of his audience. Michael Jackson, on the other hand, rarely if ever even talked to his audience. He was always above them, remote and inaccessible.
Not only was Sky Saxon accessible, he started a movement in rock music that required the shedding of such pretensions. He will be missed.
Michael Jackson? Please.