Buzzy Linhart will play peace party
Veteran folk rock performer Buzzy Linhart is taking the stage again.
Sitting up in a hospital bed in a front room of his southwest Berkeley home, Linhart focuses his corn flower blue eyes on a guitar string as he winds it through the head stock of an electric guitar in preparation for tonight’s benefit and peace party in his honor.
The 112-year-old house Linhart lives in is bustling with activity. Linhart’s son, Xeno Rasmusson, makes last minute arrangements for the benefit and friends, including musician Jen-X, gather among the pianos, guitars and keyboards in Linhart’s living room to help get ready for the event.
“I like the idea of a peace party,” Linhart says. “So many people are overwrought with all that’s going on it will be nice just to get together and relax.”
Linhart, 58, walks with great difficulty and relies mostly on a wheelchair to get around. He sits up in his bed fielding phone calls from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, between discussing his music career and taking deep pulls of vaporized marijuana, which helps to relieve symptoms of wide-angle glaucoma and emphysema.
The benefit and peace party will take place tonight at the Black Box Gallery in Oakland. The party will include musical performances from a variety of well-known musicians, the poetry of Bay Area Poet Allen Cohen accompanied on piano by George Michalski. Councilmember Kriss Worthington, who has known Linhart for over 20 years, will address partygoers.
Linhart, who was a musical prodigy, has been a major figure in the folk rock since 1963 when song writer and musician Fred Neil gave him an introduction to the folk rock scene in New York. Through the 60s, Linhart played with The Seventh Sons, a highly respected band that performed widely along the Eastern Seaboard.
In 1965, the New York Times credited the multi-talented Linhart as the first American to combine Western rock with East Indian raga music. Linhart’s visionary music made him the founding father of free-form radio and a major player in the Greenwich Village folk-rock movement that included artists like Bob Dylan.
Linhart has performed on hundreds of recordings with artists like Jimi Hendrix, Stephen Stills, Richie Havens, Harry Nilsson and Patti LaBelle. And his songs have been sung by Carly Simon and Bette Midler among others.
Linhart, also a film actor, holds a special place in film history. He was the first actor to display full frontal nudity while playing the role of a hitchhiker in the non-X-rated film 1972 movie “The Groove Tube.” Linhart also composed the music for the film.
“It was an exquisite moment in comic film history,” he said with his typical good-natured smile. “I’m really quite proud of it.”
Linhart has been contending with health problems since an 1982 automobile accident in Trumansburg, New York. He suffered serious damage to his knees and ribs. Linhart had no insurance and was unable to receive proper medical attention.
“Several years later I had surgery on my knees that left them worse off than they were before,” he said.
Not long after the accident, Linhart was unable to play music and found himself homeless. In 1989 Linhart hooked up with Wavy Gravy who talked him into coming to Berkeley where he has lived ever since.
Linhart is on the Board of Directors of Musicians For Medical Marijuana and has been strong local advocate for medical marijuana.
“My vision would be totally gone by now if I didn’t use medical marijuana,” said Linhart, who was an anti-drug activist after he stopped using drugs, alcohol and cigarettes in 1968. “There are thousands of people using prescription drops that lose their vision because they don’t chose medical marijuana.”
In September, 1998 the Berkeley Police wrongfully arrested Linhart for cultivating 13 medical marijuana plants. Linhart sued the city and received an out of court settlement of $30,000.
Linhart recently returned from New York where he played several gigs and is planning to perform with Eric Burdon and Robby Kreiger. Linhart is also currently working out the details of a performance at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland.
The Benefit and Peace Party will be held at the Black Box Gallery at 1928 Telegraph Ave. in Oakland starting at 7 p.m. There is a sliding scale door charge. For more information call (510) 451-1932.
For more information about Linhart’s career and music go to www.buzzylinhart.com