Poet, artist, musician, author and all-around countercultural icon Tuli Kupferberg died today in Manhattan. The co-founder of the Fugs was 86, and had been in ill health following a pair of strokes after the last two years.
Kupferberg was already a minor literary star in New York when he, Ed Sanders, and Ken Weaver formed the Fugs in 1964. Already in his forties, Kupferberg was one of the original Greenwich Village Beats, and in addition to his own work as a poet, writer, and cartoonist, he'd championed a number of other Beat writers and appeared as a character in Allen Ginsberg's "Howl." Despite his self-mocking description as "the world's oldest rock star," Kupferberg's work with the Fugs turned out to be highly influential to a number of genres: their satirical and unusually frank treatment of sex and drugs helped rock 'n' roll grow up; their placement at the center of the Greenwich Village scene encouraged connections between influential members of the folk community (the Holy Modal Rounders' Steve Weber and Peter Stampfel later joined the band); and their aggressive, anti-authoritarian political stance would echo decades later in the punk scene.
A restlessly creative figure, Kupferberg remained productive well into his eighties, and towards the end of his life was still playing occasional gigs with the Fugs and hosting his own YouTube series. He left behind a legacy of dozens of books of poetry as well as his recorded material with the Fugs. In 2008, "CIA Man" was featured in the Coen Brothers' Burn After Reading.