When Newarker Young Nearly Levitated Nixon’s White House

Larry Young

If you like fusion jazz, and you like collecting the names of past New Jersey luminaries who did their part to keep the place from sliding into an all-out indefensible series of bulldozed ghettos, highway casualty grottoes and gated golf courses, then you must have already heard of organist Larry Young.

You’ve also probably heard of Abbie Hoffman’s 1967 flower power efforts to levitate the Pentagon as part of a protest of the war in Vietnam. Another New Jersey guy, Long Branch’s own Norman Mailer, wrote about that in The Armies of the Night.

But what about President Richard Nixon’s fears that Young –  in the throes of a Mother Ship beam-down outdoor concert in the vicinity – might levitate the White House?

A born and bred Newarker, Young was (mostly) a Blue Note jazz artist who put together a run of albums in the 1960’s and 70’s. One irresistibly titled recording Young released in 1975 paid tribute to his roots (and to the author of The Seven Pillars of Wisdom).

It’s called Lawrence of Newark.

When he wasn’t making his own groundbreaking works, Young recorded with the best musicians of his era, including Miles Davis. Young played organ on Bitches Brew, recognized as one of the most influential jazz albums of all time. He also played on a lesser known but stunning in its own right record called Love, Devotion, Surrender, featuring the guitar god partnership of Carlos Santana and John McLaughlin.

The music is wild: a subversive, orgasmic, organ-galloping trip through an otherworldly, Stanley Kubrick-like frenzy of mind-blowing history and Padre Pio post-history.

It was enough to put Nixon on high alert in June, 1972.

This comes from The New Yorker:

“Young was performing in Washington, D.C.’s Lafayette Square, just across from the White House, with the electronic-music innovators Joe Gallivan and the mononymic Nicholas in the trio Love Cry Want.

Reportedly, President Nixon ordered an aide, J. R. Haldeman, to “pull the plug on the concert fearing that this strange music would ‘levitate the White House.’ ”

Young died in 1978 at the age of 37, leaving behind a bizarre trail-blaze of jazz fusion masterpieces, and having officially put the White House in a heightened state of agitation.



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