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Music and Basquiat: Gray at the Mudd Club


Music was an important force in the life and work of Jean-Michel Basquiat. He was an active participant in the hip hop/graffiti movement of the late 1970’s and early 1980’s and in the intersecting downtown New York art rock scene that made its headquarters at the Mudd Club.

Basquiat was a founding member of the band Gray, with Nicholas Taylor, the photographer who created the exhibit Jean Michel Basquiat: An Intimate Portrait [on display at the Bailey/Howe Library, January – March 2013].

We’ve created a Spotify playlist to highlight some relevant music.

Planet Rock by Afrika Bambaataa & The Soul Sonic Force

Afrika Bambaataa grew up in the South Bronx and was instrumental in the development of New York hip hop in the early 1980’s.

Rapture by Blondie

Jean Michel Basquiat appears as a DJ in the video for Blondie’s Rapture, a song that also gives a shout out to hip hop artist Fab 5 Freddy.

Bird Feathers by Charlie Parker

Basquiat referenced Charlie Parker and a number of jazz legends in his painting, often bestowing them with one of his signature symbols — a crown.

Change the Beat by Fab 5 Freddy

Graffiti artist and hip hop pioneer Fab 5 Freddy intersected in numerous ways with Basquiat. Freddy co-curated the seminal Beyond Words show at the Mudd Club, featuring graffiti artists such as Basquiat, Rammellzee, and Keith Haring.

Fab 5 Freddy with Basquiat

Fab 5 Freddy with Basquiat

Lust for Life by Iggy Pop

In Jean Michel Basquiat: An Intimate Portrait, Nicholas Taylor describes dancing with Basquiat to protopunk Iggy Pop’s Bowie-produced 1977 solo release.

Where Were You by the Lounge Lizards

This jazz/no wave/punk combo formed by brothers Evan and John Lurie (the latter also appearing as an actor in Jim Jarmusch films) featured a rotating cast of musicians that included Arto Lindsay and Marc Ribot.

Blue in Green by Miles Davis

“I never know how to describe my work. It’s not always the same thing. It’s like asking Miles, ‘How does your horn sound?’” – Jean Michel Basquiat

Rammellzee and Shockdell at the Ampitheater from the Wild Style soundtrack

Rammellzee was a visual/graffiti/performance artist, sculptor, and early hip hop musician with an eccentric style all his own. “Beat Bop,” Rammellzee’s influential 1983 single (with K-Rob) was produced by Basquiat, who also created the cover art.

Rammellzee and Basquiat

Rammellzee and Basquiat

Life During Wartime by Talking Heads

This early Talking Heads hit proclaims, “This ain’t no party; this ain’t no disco…this ain’t no Mudd Club, or CBGB,” referencing the iconic New York music venues frequented by the band.

When by Vincent Gallo

Like Jean Michel Basquiat and many of their contemporaries, Vincent Gallo (a sometime member of Basquiat’s band Gray) has produced creative work across a wide array of disciplines, as an actor, painter, director, model, and musician.

Burning Up by Madonna

Before Madonna became one of the world’s most successful recording artists, she was a Mudd Club provocateur, who once dated Basquiat.

Madonna & Basquiat

Madonna & Basquiat

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