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“Some people call me Mr. Ra – some call me Mr. Ree”

from PASTE Magazine

The Feeling Of Space: How Sun Ra Integrated Sci-Fi in Music


“Some people call me Mr. Ra,” Sun Ra often told interviewers, “and some call me Mr. Ree.”

Sun Ra was a man of many mysteries, not the least of which was how much he believed his own story. He insisted that he wasn’t born as Herman Blount on May 22, 1914, in Birmingham, Alabama, as official records had it, but was instead an angel from the planet Saturn who made his first appearance on this planet at that time and place.

Many people watched him closely for the wink or smile that would acknowledge that the tale was an extravagant joke or elaborate fiction. He never provided any such indication and stubbornly stuck to his story that he was a messenger from a superior race come to help troubled earthlings.

This left it up to each member of his far-flung audience to decide just how to take Sun Ra’s claims. For most of us, the tale of his voyage from Saturn to Earth was clearly not reality but just as clearly no joke either. All of Sun Ra’s work included sci-fi elements: his instrumental compositions boasted exotic, extraterrestrial sounds; his poems and song lyrics referenced interplanetary exploration; he and his band members were costumed in otherworldly attire. But in many ways his greatest science fiction was his own life.

In Robert Mugge’s brilliant documentary film, Sun Ra: A Joyful Noise, Sun Ra stands on the rooftop of a tall building in Philadelphia. He’s dressed like an angel from Saturn: a rotund man in a gold mask, blue face paint, a purple caftan, Mardi Gras beads, a magenta wig and a maroon mesh cap bristling with silver wires.

“With all the churches you’ve got, all the schools you’ve got and all the governments you’ve got,” he proclaims, as if he were the inspector from an intergalactic accreditation agency, “you’re supposed to have a better planet than this. Man has failed…He should be a good sport about it and say, ‘I give up. I need help.’ I’m here as a bridge for them to get help.”

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Posted on November 6, 2015 by Editor

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