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Video: “The Ballad of the Skeletons” by Allen Ginsberg with Paul McCartney and Philip Glass

In October of 1995, Ginsberg visited Paul McCartney and his family at their home in England. He recited The Ballad of the Skeletons while one of McCartney’s daughters filmed it. Ginsberg mentioned that he had to give a reading with Anne Waldman and other poets at the Royal Albert Hall and was looking for a guitarist to accompany him. “Why don’t you try me,” McCartney said. “I love the poem.”

The soundtrack features Ginsberg on vocals, Philip Glass on keyboard, and McCartney on guitar, drums, Hammond organ, and maracas.

The video was directed by Gus Van Sant, who had ties to surviving members of the Beat generation. Van Sant had directed William S. Burroughs in the film Drugstore Cowboy, and Ginsberg was happy with Van Sant’s work on The Ballad of the Skeletons despite a tight filming budget. This video was the last major project that Ginsberg was involved in.


Allen Ginsberg (June 3, 1926 – April 5, 1997)

Text adapted from Open Culture

9 comments on “Video: “The Ballad of the Skeletons” by Allen Ginsberg with Paul McCartney and Philip Glass

  1. Pingback: Michael Simms: All-time Most Popular Posts in Vox Populi | Vox Populi

  2. Mike Schneider
    February 13, 2019

    Fun to see this, Michael. It prompted me to look for & find (!) my CD of this, which I haven’t thought about for years.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Federico Correa
    June 2, 2016


    Liked by 1 person

  4. giordanoart
    May 26, 2016

    Missing Alen Ginsberg, the voice of the poet. America desperately needs to hear the wisdom of poets Calling all poets, calling all poets, America needs to hear from you now.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Laure-Anne Bosselaar
    February 10, 2016

    What an amazing document! Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Charlie Brice
    August 15, 2015

    This was terrific. Thanks for posting. Charlie Brice

    Liked by 1 person

  7. James Rogers Bush
    August 15, 2015

    Howler Monkeys (To Allen Ginsberg)

    We are all

    Of the original


    In the Dark
    For the short

    Unknown places
    In search
    Of answers

    Long legs
    The openings
    To deep spaces

    To fall
    Into a trance
    Of sweet

    For a merging
    Of the body
    And soul

    All possibilities
    For an uninhibited
    To peace

    But hesitating
    At the crossroads


    At hell


    Liked by 1 person

  8. Kelly Seibel
    August 15, 2015

    I love that you post so many pieces that I would never see otherwise. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

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