Wild Combination

wild combinationI received the DVD for Wild Combination as a gift a few years ago. I had no idea who Arthur Russell was. Do you know him? If you do, you’re hipper than me. I love this documentary and am happy to include it in Reel Charlie’s 30 Days of Gay. Arthur Russell was a lot of things. He was a farmboy raised in Iowa. He ran away from home and discovered Haight-Ashbury in 1967. He moved to New York in 1973, briefly dated Alan Ginsberg, went to various schools mostly for musical training, became the manager of The Kitchen – a downtown Manhattan performance space, met his long-time partner Tom Lee whom he lived with 15 years until Russell’s death. Arthur was a cellist, composer, singer and musician who defied genre working in classical, disco, experimental, folk and rock. Along the way, he collaborated with Steve Reich, Philip Glass, Talking Heads, Jennifer Warnes, Bootsy Collins, and Nicky Siano. Wild Combination is the story of Arthur’s life. His creative life, his romantic life with Tom, his frustration at trying to bridge the gap between serious and popular music, his thirst for success, his relationship with his parents and his early death from AIDS in 1992 at the age of 40. I love this doc because it blends so many things together. Arthur was hard to peg musically. He could do it all, but also spent too much time being frustrated and never finishing many songs and pieces he began. He had commercial success in the dance music world in the 70’s and 80’s. But he never became a household name. In the film, Philip Glass calls him the most eccentric member of the group of people hanging around the performance art scene in the late 70’s and early 80’s. I love that moniker. Russell was prolific, leaving behind over 1,000 tapes. To give you an idea of the extent of Russell’s work available today, Spotify has six albums available to stream, five of which were released post-2000. For lovers of music, viewers fascinated with the downtown NYC scene, and anyone interested in atypical gay male experiences, check out the beautiful Wild Combination and introduce yourself to the genius of Arthur Russell. 4 out of 5.

Hat tip to my dear friend Jason for gifting me this at the perfect time.


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