Red Hot, Pitchfork Crowdfund Arthur Russell Tribute Album

by: Blaine Skrainka

August 15, 2012

Red Hot, an advocacy group that “fights AIDS through popular culture,” is using the crowdfunding platform Kickstarter to produce another in a line of great compilation albums.

Arthur Russel kickstart tribute album

In 2009, the organization released the critically-acclaimed album, Dark Was the Night, which went on to raise $1.6 million for the battle against HIV/AIDS. For its most recent project, Red Hot assembled a set of 20 diverse artists to reinvent the songs of the beloved and influential Arthur Russell. Some of the contributors set to participate include Twin Shadow, Washed Out, José González, Robyn, Hot Chip, Cut Copy, Devendra Banhart, and Scissor Sisters.

Pitchfork, who has signed up as co-curators, says of the to-be album:

“The collection will draw from the various corners of Russell’s catalog, which explored the reaches of New York’s Downtown scene in the 1970s and ranged from avant-disco and experimental dance music to singer-songwriter pop and meditative cello compositions.”

Russell left his small town in Iowa for the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco at the height of the Summer of Love, 1967. After a few years in a Buddhist commune — where he was said to have often been banished to a closet when he wanted to practice his cello — Russell set off across the continent and wound up in New York City. There he became immersed in the Downtown art scene, crossing paths with legends like Allen Ginsberg and David Byrne.

Arthur Russell passed away, a victim of AIDS, in 1992. He was an enigma of a musician; a shooting star who bridged gaps between classical, avant garde, pop and disco. He influenced not only his peers, but a generation to come. Sasha Frere-Jones, in a 2004 feature for the New Yorker, said of Russell’s work:

“[His music is] stranded between lands real and imagined: the street and the cornfield; the soft bohemian New York and the hard Studio 54 New York; the cheery bold strokes of pop and the liberating possibilities of abstract art. Arthur Russell didn’t dissolve these borders so much as wander past them, humming his own song.”

The project to bring This Is How We Walk on the Moon to life seeks to raise $55,000 by September 8th, and backers can pitch their support here.


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