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The Department of Afro American Research, Arts, and Culture's Archive is a subdivision of DAARAC that digitally preserves Afro American films. On this website, you may browse our archive that consists of film posters, screenshots, and movie synopsis. All information provided here is for research and reference purposes. We do not host full-length films on this website.

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Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Legend: Sun Ra

This post is definitely going to be one of my favorite post I have done on BP. Sun Ra is simply genius. His life is beyond music and deeper than what you may hear. I'm proud to make this post and I hope everyone take advantages of the selected biographies I will have listed. I am only going to post a summary of Sun Ra, but its much deeper than what I am posting.


Sun Ra (May 22, 1914 to May 30, 1993) was an innovative and individual jazz composer, bandleader and piano and synthesizer player, who came to be known as much for preaching his bizarre cosmic philosophy as for his phenomenal musical compositions and performances.


Born Herman "Sonny" Blount in Birmingham, Alabama, he abandoned his birth name and took on the name of Sun Ra (Ra being the name of the ancient Egyptian god of the Sun) and headed a band with an ever-changing ensemble known as the "Arkestra" (or sometimes "Solar Arkestra").

The musical development of Sun Ra can be (loosely) categorized into three periods:

The first period of the 1950s was when his music evolved from big-band Swing into the outer space-themed "cosmic jazz" he was best known for. Early inhis career, Ra worked as an arranger for Fletcher Henderson. Music critics and jazz historians say some of his best work was recorded during this period. Notable Sun Ra albums from the 1950s include Sun Ra Visits Planet Earth, Interstellar Low Ways, Angels And Demons At Play, We Travel The Spaceways, and Jazz In Silhouette (among many others).
It was during the 1950s that Sun Ra began wearing the outlandish, Egyptian-styled costumes and headdresses he would be known for. Claiming that he was not from the Planet Earth but rather from Saturn, Ra developed a complicated persona of "cosmic" philosophies and lyrical poetry that preached "awareness" and peace above all. He eschewed racism (having been a victim of it many times, in regards to the touring and booking schedule of the Arkestra), though he rarely came out and directly spoke about any controversial subjects. He preferred to make music, which he did, as the cast of musicians touring and working with him changed on an almost daily basis.
(The most notable graduate of the Sun Ra Arkestra was John Gilmore, a saxophonist whose work influenced that of John Coltrane).
During the 1960s, his music underwent a chaotic, free jazz experimental period. It was during this period that his popularity reached its peak, as the "beat generation" and the psychedelic era embraced him. In this era, Ra was among the first of any musicians to make extensive use of synthesizers and other various electronic instruments. Newcomers to Ra's music may have difficulty with his albums of this era. Notable titles from this period include The Magic City, When Sun Comes Out, The Heliocentric Worlds of Sun Ra, Volume One and Other Planes Of There.
During their third period, beginning in the 1970s and onward, Sun Ra and the Arkestra settled down into a more conventional method (though still highly eclectic and energetic), and Ra took a liking to the films of Walt Disney. He incorporated smatterings of Disney's musical numbers into many of his performances from then on; and in the late 1980s the Arkestra even performed a concert at Walt Disney World. The Arkestra's version of "Pink Elephants on Parade" is available on Stay Awake, a compilation of Disney tunes by many artists.
A number of Sun Ra's 1970s concerts are available on CD, but none have received a wide release in comparison to his earlier music. The album Atlantis can be considered the landmark that led into his 1970s era.

During his career Sun Ra recorded over one hundred albums, but many of them were printed on microlabels, and his music was largely unknown outside of the live jazz touring circuit. In the 1990s, after he had left this plane of existence, many of his recordings were released on compact disc for the first time under the Ihnfinity Music label.

The Arkestra continues to tour and perform as of November 2003, now led by alto saxophonist Marshall Allen.

Sun Ra and his Arkestra were the subject of a documentary film made in 1972 and a feature film entitled Space Is The Place in 1974. The soundtrack, also by Sun Ra, is available on CD.

Some recommended albums (by no means all-inclusive): Atlantis, Supersonic Jazz, Cosmic Tones for Mental Therapy, We Travel the Spaceways, Singles, Languidity, The Magic City.

Brother From Another Planet [Documentary On Sun Ra]

  • 1957 - Jazz by Sun Ra, Vol. 1 (a.k.a Sun Song)
  • 1957 - Super-Sonic Jazz (a.k.a. Super Sonic Sounds)
  • 1958/59 - Jazz in Silhouette
  • 1961 - The Futuristic Sounds of Sun Ra (a.k.a. We Are In the Future)
  • 1963 - When Sun Comes Out
  • 1964 - Gods on Safari
  • 1963-67 - Angels and Demons at Play
  • 1965 - Art Forms of Dimensions Tomorrow
  • 1965 - Fate in a Pleasant Mood
  • 1965 - Rocket Number Nine Take off for the Planet Venus (a.k.a. Interstellar Low Ways)
  • 1965 - Secrets of the Sun
  • 1965 - The Heliocentric Worlds of Sun Ra, Volume I (a.k.a Cosmic Equation; Other Worlds)
  • 1966 - The Heliocentric Worlds of Sun Ra, Volume II (a.k.a. The Sun Myth)
  • 1966 - Other Planes of There
  • 1966 - The Lady With the Golden Stockings (a.k.a. The Nubians of Plutonia)
  • 1966 - The Magic City
  • 1966 - Visits Planet Earth
  • 1966 - When Angels Speak of Love
  • 1967 - Cosmic Tones for Mental Therapy
  • 1967 - Strange Strings
  • 1967 - We Travel the Spaceways
  • 1968 - Monorails and Satellites, Volume I
  • 1968 - Sound of Joy
  • 1969 - Atlantis
  • 1969/70 - Continuation
  • 1969 - Monorails and Satellites, Volume II
  • 1970 - Holiday for Soul Dance
  • 1970 - My Brother the Wind
  • 1970 - Night of the Purple Moon
  • 1970 - Nothing Is (a.k.a. Heliocentric Worlds Volume 3; Dancing Shadows)
  • 1970 - Sound Sun Pleasure!!
  • 1971 - It's After the End of the World: Live at the Donaueschingen and Berlin Festivals
  • 1971 - My Brother the Wind Vol.2 (a.k.a. Otherness)
  • 1971 - Nidhamu
  • 1971 - Nuits de la Fondation Maeght, Volume I
  • 1971 - Nuits de la Fondation Maeght, Volume II
  • 1971 - Pictures of Infinity (a.k.a. Outer Spaceways, Incorporated)
  • 1971 - The Solar-Myth Approach, Volume I
  • 1971 - The Solar-Myth Approach, Volume II
  • 1972 - Bad and Beautiful
  • 1972 - It Is Forbidden (at the Ann Arbor Blues & Jazz Festival in Exile)
  • 1972 - Universe in Blue
  • 1973 - Astro Black
  • 1973 - Deep Purple (a.k.a. Dreams Come True)
  • 1973 - Discipline 27-II
  • 1973 - Space Is the Place
  • 1974 - Horizon (a.k.a. Starsnatchers)
  • 1974 - Outer Spaceways Incorporated (a.k.a. A Tonal View of Times Tomorrow, volume 3)
  • 1974 - Space Probe
  • 1974 - Sub Underground (a.k.a. Temple U; Cosmo-Earth Fantasy)
  • 1974 - The Invisible Shield (a.k.a. Janus; A Tonal View of Times Tomorrow, vol. 2; Satellites Are Outerspace....)
  • 1975 - Pathways to Unknown Worlds
  • 1975 - What's New?
  • 1976 - Cosmos
  • 1976 - Featuring Pharoah Sanders and Black Harold
  • 1976 - Live at Montreux
  • 1977 - Solo Piano, Volume I
  • 1977 - Somewhere Over the Rainbow (a.k.a. We Live To Be)
  • 1977 - Taking a Chance on Chances
  • 1977 - The Soul Vibrations of Man
  • 1978 - Lanquidity
  • 1978 - Media Dreams (a.k.a. Saturn Research)
  • 1978 - New Steps
  • 1978 - Other Voices, Other Blues
  • 1978 - Some Blues But Not the Kind Thats Blue (a.k.a. Nature Boy; My Favorite Things)
  • 1978 - St. Louis Blues (a.k.a. Solo Piano, Volume II)
  • 1978 - The Antique Blacks
  • 1978 - The Sound Mirror: Live in Philadelphia '78
  • 1978 - Unity
  • 1979 - Disco 3000
  • 1979 - God Is More Than Love Can Ever Be (a.k.a. Blithe Spirit Dance; Days of Happiness; Trio)
  • 1979 - I, Pharaoh
  • 1979 - Omniverse
  • 1979 - Sleeping Beauty (a.k.a. Door of the Cosmos)
  • 1979 - The Other Side of the Sun
  • 1980 - On Jupiter (a.k.a. Seductive Fantasy)
  • 1980 - Sunrise in Different Dimensions
  • 1980 - Voice of the Eternal Tomorrow (a.k.a.The Rose Hue Mansions of the Sun)
  • 1981 - Aurora Borealis (a.k.a. Ra Rachmaninov)
  • 1981 - Beyond The Purple Star Zone (a.k.a. Immortal Being)
  • 1981 - Dance of Innocent Passion
  • 1981 - Of Mythic Worlds
  • 1982 - Oblique Parallax (a.k.a. Journey Stars Beyond)
  • 1982 - Strange Celestial Road
  • 1983 - Just Friends
  • 1983 - Ra to the Rescue
  • 1983 - The Sun Ra Arkestra Meets Salah Ragab in Egypt
  • 1984 - A Fireside Chat With Lucifer
  • 1984 - Celestial Love
  • 1984 - Live at Praxis '84, Volume I
  • 1984 - Nuclear War
  • 1985 - Cosmo Sun Connection
  • 1985 - Hiroshima (a.k.a. Stars that Shine Darkly, Volume I)
  • 1985 - Live at Praxis '84, Volume II
  • 1985 - Outer Reach Intensity-Energy (a.k.a. Stars that Shine Darkly, Volume II)
  • 1985 - When Spaceships Appear (a.k.a. Cosmo-Party Blues; Children of the Sun)
  • 1986 - Live at Praxis '84, Volume III
  • 1987 - A Night in East Berlin
  • 1987 - Reflections in Blue
  • 1988 - Cosmo Omnibus Imagiable Illusion: Live at Pit-Inn
  • 1988 - Hidden Fire I
  • 1988 - Hidden Fire II
  • 1988 - Love in Outer Space: Live in Utrecht
  • 1989 - Blue Delight
  • 1990 - Live in London 1990
  • 1990 - Purple Night
  • 1992 - Mayan Temples
  • 1992 - Destination Unknown
  • 1993 - At the Village Vanguard
  • 1993 - Concert for the Comet Kohoutek
  • 1993 - Friendly Galaxy
  • 1993 - Pleiades
  • 1993 - A Tribute To Stuff Smith
  • 1993 - Soundtrack to the Film Space Is the Place
  • 1993 - Somewhere Else

After Death Releases

  • 1994 - A Quiet Place in the Universe
  • 1994 - Live at the Hackney Empire
  • 1994 - Live From Soundscape NYC
  • 1995 - Second Star to the Right (Salute to Walt Disney)
  • 1996 - Stardust From Tomorrow
  • 1999 - Life Is Splendid
  • 1999 - Outer Space Employment Agency
  • 2000 - God's Private Eye
  • 2000 - Standards
  • 2002 - Music From Tomorrow's World
  • 2003 - Live in Paris at the Gibus
  • 2003 - Piano Recital: Teatro La Fenice, Venezia
  • 2005 - The Heliocentric Worlds of Sun Ra, Vol. 3 - The Lost Tapes
  • 2006 - What Planet Is This?
  • 2006 - Live at Club Lingerie
  • 2006 - Live at Myron's Ballroom
  • 2007 - Creator of the Universe - The Lost Reel Collection, Volume One
  • 2007 - Complete Detroit Jazz Center Residency
  • 2007 - Dance of the Living Image
  • 2007 - Intergalactic Research
  • 2007 - The Shadows Took Shape

Resources & Selected Biographies


litlgrey said...

Proper! Testify!

Keith said...

Great write-up. Very cool. Thanks for sharing that with us about this amazing man. Have a fantastic weekend. Cheers!

Punjabi Folk Singers said...

Great post. This has got to be the tightest blog ever.

les18e said...

I was very fortunate to see Sun Ra and The Arkestra perform at The East in BK as a kid. He stood with his back to a farfisa electric organ/piano; played it with the back of his hands, and had his eyes rolled up in the back of his head as if in a zombie/trance state. The band was great;
June Tyson sang with them. Had to be one of the most avant garde shows I'd ever seen. Nice tribute here; a thorough discography, and one of the nicest blogs available.

Comeback Shane said...

So here's a funny story. I sat down to check out this blog the other night after taking my 'glaucoma medicine' and still had my speakers WAAAAAAY up without knowing it. All of a sudden BLARING from my stereo was "I'M THE SON OF A BAAAAD!!!!!!"...the beginning of Son Of Shaft. Holy shit I jumped outta my chair and struck a kung fu stance!

How funny is that shit! Man did I laugh at myself!

I owe you one!

Anonymous said...

Great blog. Good place to find movies and music. I highly recommend it to everyone I know. Added you to the blogroll at

keep it up!

Anonymous said...

Looks like the documentary is "A Joyful Noise" produced by Robert Mugge.

Unknown said...

Excelent! We need more and more from Sun Ra and you gave us your best!

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