Glen River is one of the most insightful
songwriters of our time. He is quick to say, "We are all here." His meaning is that fate makes each of us a necessary messenger carrying a fragment of the universe.
He has written and performed songs for over 40 years. His
body of work achieves amazing depths of meaning, spirituality, and power. He
has relentlessly examined the issues facing humanity.
Compassion earned with a aging passport stamped "Permanent Exile" underlines
an appreciation of how the outsider navigates a world seduced by privilege. The
journey he continues to travel is the substance of our lives. He creates
portraits of places we all visit in our own Odyssey. His work, keeps the faith as
well as the passion. It never asks for trust but always gives it as a
doorway to the secret garden of truth. An overwhelming emotional force is the
tide his ship sails on. The few who have shared the secret of his artistry have
been elevated by the graceful modesty his art unfolds. Glen's singing sounds like a combination of... Tom Waits, Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, and Willie Nelson But his words ... are like no one else. And the music is like a ocean reaching to an unknown shore.
River has lived and worked in England, France, and Greece as well as various
parts of the United States. His prolific nature keeps the songs and music coming.
Very few audiences have had the opportunity to meet the songwriter/poet though he
has written for over 40 years. A reclusive life filled with art
projects has restricted his performance schedule.
In early years River started playing drums. His uncle Russ had been a drummer with big bands. Soon he moved to trumpet, piano, clarinet, violin, and eventually cello. In his teens Joan Turner, a close friend of his mothers, showed him his first three chords on the guitar. The first song he learned was Old Paint, a cowboy song. Joan was a folk singer in the tradition of Burl Ives . Her influence brought story, melody, harmony, and American tradition together. River made it contemporary with his original voice. His first arrangement was a traditional balled called "Lindy Lou." His first original song was probably "Cemetery Ridge." About a young man caught up in the civil war.
"The folk scene before the fame came along, was a patchwork of cafe open mic nights.
Duos, trios, and small groups constantly formed, reformed, and constantly experimented and exchanged
ideas. When "Entertainment Business" packaged artists as products, it codified icons
and created the 'Human Juke Box.' Along with the ideas at the grass roots folk scene
was a moral sense that political issues were sociological turning points on which the
soul of the Nation was at stake." "We are all here" is the emotional momentum River
discovered in his many travels across America. Civil rights was the wake up call to
the young to own the future. Individuals like Woody Guthrie, and Pete Seeger demonstrated
that individual vitality could outlast the fame industry and forge original visions of
primal shared truths. River continues, "Unlike 'Cemetery Ridge' my songs 'Outpost 5' and 'Only The Faces' did not deal with an abstract idea of war, we were in Viet Nam. It was an ever present reality shattering lives."
"I was influenced by everyone I heard. Some of them were, or would become famous. Bob
Dylan, Pat Sky, and Dave Van Ronk, were strong voices at Gerde's Folk City . Buffy
Saint Marie was powerfully original, resilient and life affirming. Phil Oches was funny,
tragic and passionate about moral courage. The many musicians, artists, hippies,
peaceniks, refuseniks, big thinkers, and concerned individuals all crossing borders
of identity in their search for this new truth which was prodding us on, amoung the protests, be-ins, freedom schools, and grand ideas about how everything should be, was a lot of very good music, words, and song."
Glen's first published songs were Texas Guitar and Morning Light. His mother's family provided a rich southwestern heritage of sardonic humor in story telling. Texas guitar captured the modern cowboy within the classic western morality play. Morning light delicately offered the tenderness of sincere love. If River had never recorded another song, his abilities as a story teller were well established. He continued to tell the stories life delivered to his door. This accounts for his cross genre travels. His life has been laced together by voyages across cultural divides. Travel, and discovering new places punctuates his life.
River’s work displayed extradinary literary insight. Numerous anthologies (1969-82) were followed by his collections of poetry, including Words Alone (1986) Savage Art (1989), and Lingo (2008), these were interspersed by short stories, The Tiger And The Dove, The Brushmaster, The Secound Scout, his musical drama Johnny Rainbow, and his novels, including X-Olympia, The Rock & Roll Cookbook Murders, and they in turn were followed by his screenplays. Since 1998 Collectively, River has published more than 17 books, CDs and DVDs.
Publications Hand made books and art Journals including poetry have been part of his working process since 1969.
His first album, Hearts (1971), announced him as an undeniable master of the love ballad. It includes such songs as “Messenger,” “Silence,” “Rose Marie” and “Good Night My Love,” all undiscovered classics. The small audience who have experienced Rivers performance magic are amazed that he has existed in the background for so long. As if living his song "On The Sidelines" his undisputed commitment and artistic integrity has always dictated the priorities.
The "Blues" have been a foundation from the start. Miles Davis, Sachmo, Bessy Smith, Heddy Ledbetter, Billy Holliday, Lightning Hopking, Big Bill Williams, Sonny Terry & Brownny Mc Gee, Missipie John Hurt, Josh White, ... the "Blues" track in Rivers Hearts album said it. "Baby it's the blues, and they'v brought me here today, while I pretend to sing my song, what I really have to say, is babe when your alone, and the dreams, the dreams just won't go away, disolusioned angel, leave your yesterday."
His extraordinary album that followed, River Rock (1977), which includes his classic songs, Insufficient Funds, Flash Fools, and Snowman, was proof that his relentless talent was an unending spring of inspiration. Doggy Brain Blues and Bourbon Street keped an earthy feel as part of the mix.
ETHERA was an album of electronic music. It originated from MIDI songs River imported into an original voice group. Experimentation continued with the excitement of hearing original sounds. This period of discovery was sponsored by Robie Casey who provided her little cabin in the woods as a creative retreat. “Rose” as it was affectionately called, had no running water except for the Esopus river just outside the door. ETHERA is the mythic Spirit Guide from Johnny Rainbow. It has been used by several choreographers for ballet in addition to several movies and the Johnny Rainbow Musical drama. These were instrumentals with no lyrics directly associated, but "Thus Spoke Ethera" was a companion group of writings in the voice of a Shamanic Spirit Guide.
His multiple careers in music, art, and literature have continued a crosspollination
enriching his amazing creative discoveries.
1965 a movie "The Second Scout"
In 1987 his Johnny Rainbow ballet combined disciplines to celebrate creational myth.
From 2003 with "Poetry Cafe" River developed beyond the songwriter restrictions and
made poetry more accessible as a jazz element within his musical voice.
His latest offering, (still in production) "Permanent Exile" the CD and DVD, captures
the passion and energy River brings to this big picture reviewing his unique vision.
He had always been close to the World Art Performance. At one time he referred to his
work as the “Gorilla Art Theater.” Gorilla rather than Guerrilla indicated his concern
for environmental issues shared by the mountain gorillas, and his desire for some
distance from the "Guerrilla Chic."
He had often used female background vocals and experimented with acoustic and
electronic voicing offsetting them. Ideas of sound and musical phrasing
permeated his creations. River’s musical palette has moved from an episodic
visitation in cross genre adventure, to a clear synthesis of form. Each of
River’s albums explores musical portrait as well as story.
Recent Songs (2009) returned River to more traditional songwriting. "Meridith's Song" is a simple letter to a friend. The need for directness took him back to his roots. The listeners who have newly discovered him have are attracted by the purity, and sheer quality of his songs. He sees the opportunity for discovering a new audience as a new cycle. He has long documented the distraction, and profound anxieties a disconnected population in songs like “Crossroads,” the title song “Permanent Exile” and, the prophetic, “Top Secret” (“You know the truth is, Top Secret.”) River's
understanding of the contemporary paradox is underlined with his insight and wisdom. His voice is imbedded with the ring of truth. The irony is that while River's commitment to his art has required his exile from the world business empire, now everybody seems to have acquired the feeling that they too are in exile.
River's music has never earned the accolades, recognition, or monetary success of
other artists. So how is it possible that so obvious a creative genius could exist in the "communication age" un-noticed by so many for so long? The main reason is quite simply it has never been heard. A friend observed, "No one has seen how they might profit in advancing River in an industry." River is quick to admit that promotion is a shortcoming in his list of talents. Ironically in tribute to undiscovered artists River (the moviemaker) has created many documentary
interviews featuring artists, poets, and their creative process. He maintains a firm belief that creativity is the resource which can discover alternative solutions for the serious problems
facing the planet.
© 2004 Glen River Publications, all rights reserved