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

Tuli Kupferberg interview

From 2004. Kupferberg was a beat poet, early hippie, peacenik, anarchist, and co-founder of the Fugs. He died on July 12 at age 86. He influenced countless bands, artists, and politicos. He appears to have been liked by all and will be missed.

M.P. – How do you feel about those days [the 30’s and 40’s] when causes were so clear and simple?

T.K. – If they would only come back! (laughs) Maybe simplicity was part of being young, but Fascism, Hitler helped crystalize us. I think there’s a lot to that theory that Western Capitalism built Hitler up, particularly. France and England, to devour the Soviet Union. My God; he didn’t do exactly what they wanted! Maybe the telephone receiver wasn’t too clear.

It’s peculiar because American ideology was part of this simplicity, such as Manifest Destiny, Progress. The easy way out was simplicity. Whenever you found a Socialism you didn’t like you’d say, this is not Socialism. In the end, the ideology was not developed enough to explain or foresee things. Therefore we had these incredible mistakes, if you can call what cost millions of people their lives a mistake happened.

Marx predicted a lot of things wrong, made a lot of mistakes, and had a lot of success; he predicted the revolution would happen in a developed country like England and it never did. Revolution in Russia because it was undeveloped stood outside the theory. In retrospect one can say that both Marxism and Anarchist theory had serious defects. The Anarchists say their theory has never been tried; that’s one of the faults. If it never took power anywhere, it’s a defect.

M.P. – Do you think the 60s idea of an honest life was a dream?

T.K. – It’s not the first time this dream has been around. I can remember the dream of the 30s that died in the 50s. Another was alive in the 60s and died in the 70s, and it’s older than that. Nothing is wasted; no voice is wholly lost.

Tuli Kupferberg. 1923-2010

John Perry Barlow on Twitter.

Alas, Tuli Kupferberg (1923–2010), NYC’s 1st Hippie, Fug, and co-author of “1001 Ways to Beat the Draft!””

Tuli Kupferberg; poet, beat, hippie, co-founder of the Fugs, and much more passed today after a series of strokes.

The Fugs showed us that protest could and should be fun. Else why do it. They had a huge influence on me, and many others too. Kill for Peace and CIA Man were both written by Tuli, circa 1965. The songs are funny, savage, satirical – and just as true today as then.

The Fugs are still recording and their recently released The Fugs Final CD (Vol 2) is among their best. Thanks, guys.

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.