Arthur Russell (musician)  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Charles Arthur Russell Jr. (1951April 4, 1992) was an American cellist, composer, singer, and disco artist particularly noted for working simultaneously in the classical, experimental and popular traditions. He is known for such musical compositions as "Is It All Over My Face" and "Kiss Me Again".


Biography and career

Russell was born and raised in Oskaloosa, Iowa, where he later studied the cello and began to write his own music. In the early 1970s, he moved to California and studied Indian music at the Ali Akbar Khan School in San Francisco. He met Allen Ginsberg, with whom he began to work, accompanying him on the cello while Allen sang or read his poetry.

In the mid 1970s, Arthur Russell moved to New York and began study at the Manhattan School of Music. He formed a band from 1975–1979, The Flying Hearts.

In 1978, Arthur wrote and produced 'Kiss Me Again', under the name Dinosaur L. It was the first disco single to be released by Sire Records, and the first of many of Arthur's innovative dance tunes. This was followed by 'Is It All Over My Face' by Loose Joints, released in 1980. In 1982, Arthur Russell and William Socolov founded Sleeping Bag Records and their first release was his 24-24 Music. The number 'Go Bang', which originated from this album, was re-mixed as a 12" single by Francois Kevorkian.

In 1983, the album "Tower of Meaning" (Chatham Square) was released. This compelling and meditative recording, conducted by Julius Eastman, represents just a fragment of a much larger composition, which includes voices along with its instrumentation.

At the same time, Arthur continued to release dance singles such as 'Tell You Today' (4th and Broadway, 1983) an upbeat dance groove featuring the vocals of Joyce Bowden. Additional dance tunes included Wax the Van (Jump Street, 1985) with vocals by Lola Blank, wife of the notorious Bob, 'Treehouse/Schoolbell' (Sleeping Bag, 1986) and 'Let's Go Swimming' (Upside/Rough Trade, 1986).

During the mid 1980s, Arthur Russell gave many performances, either accompanying himself on cello with a myriad of effects, or working with a small ensemble consisting of Mustafa Ahmed, Steven Hall, Elodie Lauten and Peter Zummo.

1986 saw the release of 'World of Echo' (Upside/Rough Trade, 1986), which incorporated many of his ideas for pop, dance and classical music for both solo and cello format. This critically acclaimed album was included in Melody Maker's "Top Thirty Releases of 1986."

Arthur also collaborated with a number of choreographers, including John Bernd, Diane Madden, Alison Salzinger and Stephanie Woodard.

Arthur Russell died of AIDS on April 4, 1992, at the age of 40. In his obituary, the Village Voice wrote: "his songs were so personal that it seems as though he simply vanished into his music."

In 2007, This Is How We Walk On The Moon, a song which appears on the 1994 album "Another Thought", was used in a UK television commercial for T-Mobile. Also, work has begun on a new documentary on Arthur, by filmaker Matt Wolf. It is scheduled to be completed in late 2008.



  • Dinosaur L: "Kiss Me Again" (1979). Sire Records.
  • Loose Joints: "Is It All Over My Face" (1980). West End Records.
  • "Go Bang" (1980), from 24-24 Music. Sleeping Bag Music. Vocals by Lola Love.
  • "Tell You Today" (1983). 4th and Broadway. Vocals by Joyce Bowden.
  • "Wax the Van" (1985). Jump Street Records. Vocals by Lola Love. Produced by Bob and Lola Blank.
  • "Treehouse/Schoolbell" (1986). Sleeping Bag.
  • "Let's Go Swimming" (1986). Rough Trade.
  • "Springfield" (2006). Audika Records. Includes a remix by The DFA.


  • 24-24 Music (1982). Sleeping Bag Records. With Will Socolov.
  • Tower of Meaning (1983). Chatham Square.
  • Instrumentals (1984). Crepsecule. Recorded with The Flying Lizards and Glenn Lamaro, Bill Ruyle, and Jon Sholle.
  • World of Echo (1986). Recorded by Phil Niblock. Re-issued 2004 Audika Records (US) / Rough Trade (UK).
  • Another Thought (1994). Point Music 438 891-2. Compiled with help from Mikel Rouse.
  • Calling Out of Context (2004). Audika Records. Compiled by Steve Knutson.
  • The World of Arthur Russell (2004). Soul Jazz Records.
  • First Thought Best Thought (2006). Audika Records. [Includes Instrumentals Volume 1 & 2, Reach One, Tower of Meaning, and Sketch for the Face of Helen].
  • Springfield EP (2006). Audika Records.
  • Another Thought (Re-released 2006). Orange Mountain Music.


See also

downtown music

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