Vox Populi: A Public Sphere for Politics and Poetry
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