Carpe Diem. Seize the Day

The death of my sister-in-law yesterday from cancer got me thinking about Carpe Diem, by the Fugs.

Tuli Kupferberg, co-founder of the group, wrote Carpe Diem in 1966. It’s about mortality. Seize the day because we never know how much time we have left. 44 years later they sang it at his memorial service on July 17, 2010.


In the presence of death itself, the Fugs sing a church friendly version of the Tuli Kupferberg classic from their first album in 1966. Tuli said at that time he was a young man and death was only an abstract idea to him. As he grew older, the song became more ominous.

You can’t out talk the Angel of Death
so sing children sing
You can’t out walk the Angel of Death
so sing cuckoo sing
death is a’coming in
death is a’coming in

carpe diem, carpe diem
carpe diem, carpe diem

Well it’s an old cliche
Yes, it’s an old cliche
But you better make your love today
death is a’coming in

The Fugs Final CD (Part 2.) Be Free


“The Fugs were right on the barricades of what was possible,” says Danny Goldberg, a longtime music-industry executive and author of two books about popular culture. “There was a fearlessness, an intensity, an unwillingness to pander to any commercial norms that was very exciting.”

“It was the ’60s, and it was like there was a big ribbon around what was acceptable and that ribbon was cut,” Sanders says. “So we found a niche inside that. We fit in in our own strange way for a few years.”

The Fugs formed in 1964, co-founded by Ed Sanders and Tuli Kupferberg. They were anarchic, horny, stoned, funny, profane, and could quote William Blake as well as do protest songs. Their “Kill For Peace” remains a powerful anti-war song indeed. They influenced a lot of people and bands.

They re-formed in the 80s and continued recording. The Fugs Final CD (Part 1.) was released a few years back and contains some of their best stuff ever. Seriously. The sequel, The Fugs Final CD (Part 2.) Be Free is now out and available on Amazon and iTunes. I’m listening to it now. They still got it. Go buy it.

Tuli has suffered several strokes, is 86, confined to his apartment, but still does videos on his YouTube channel and sang on the CD. You should be so productive when you’re 86 and in ill health! He was a genuine bridge between the Beats of the 50’s and the counter-culture of the 60’s. Abbie Hoffman once said, Tuli is a pacifist but doesn’t care if you run around with a machine gun. Works for me.

Tuli Kupferberg benefit concert

Wonder of wonders, who would have thought when the Fugs started in 1964 that the New York Times would review a benefit for co-founder Tuli Kupferberg all these years later. He’s 86 and mostly blind now from recent strokes. So, friends did a benefit to raise money for his medical expenses. Among the performers were Lou Reed, Peter Stampfel, Laurie Anderon, John Zorn, most of Sonic Youth, and more.

Mr. Kupferberg is now an 86-year-old mode of resistance and possibility, still living in Manhattan, writing songs and poems.

Indeed he is. Here’s Tuli’s blog and You Tube channel. You should be so active when you’re 86.

He did tape a 10-second video message thanking the audience, though, which was played on a screen. “Now go out there and have some fun,” he said, with a strange smile. “It may be later than you think.”

In honor of that sentiment, here’s Carpe Diem (Seize the Day) by the Fugs in 1965. That’s the other co-founder Ed Sanders with Tuli (r.) in the photo.

Larry “Ratso” Sloman on Tuli Kupferberg

Tuli Kupferberg was a mentor to all of us who grew up in the ’60s and sensed there was more to life than shuffling off to Vietnam and, if you returned, getting a job as an accountant and paying off a white picket fenced home in Levitttown. Like a Colossus he bridged the worlds of the literary Beats and the hedonistic hippies and infused his gentle, pacifist worldview into everything he did. His work would make you laugh out loud and cry inside. Watching him perform his incredible songs like “Nothing”, “Morning Morning”, and “Kill for Peace” with The Fugs was a cultural revelation and more mind-altering than any psychedelic. The fact that Tuli continues to make his voice heard, via You Tube, at 86, and after two debilitating strokes, makes him an American treasure and puts all of us who can still feel greatly in his debt.

Kupferberg co-founded the Fugs in 1965 and has continued performing until now. He’s 86, recently had two stokes that have left him incapacitated and nearly blind. Since our health care system sucks, he’s got bills he can’t pay.

On Jan 22. there will be a benefit concert for him in NYC with the Fugs, Sonic Youth, Lou Reed, John Zorn, and others. Donate here. I just did.