Writings about Music

Composer Morning Hair and A Painter

Michael Robinson (Los Angeles)



Michael Robinson (Los Angeles)


Michael Robinson (Los Angeles)


At first was amused to find my hair so wild upon waking up. Then my mood became more pensive after realizing it seemed to be echoing in its own way the hairstyle of Jean-Michel Basquiat as shown in a documentary about his art and life watched before going to sleep.

Really incomprehensible how Basquiat never spoke to Andy Warhol again after the opening night of an exhibition featuring their collaborative paintings, sadly allowing the harshly ignorant, ethnocentric negativity of some reviews to override a unique friendship and artistic partnership. If only Jean-Michel had ignored and/or commiserated with Andy rather than in effect validating those unfortunate attacks born from resentful attempts to maintain the status quo. I know someone who knew Basquiat during the time he spent in Maui, and am curious to hear what she has to say about him. I am a great admirer of his art, and am just now learning about his life.

One is struck by the powerful similarities between the person of Jean-Michael and Jim Morrison as shown in interview videos. They shared a benign-dreamy quality, artistic-intellectual brilliant originality, and uninhibited, pure directness-earthiness. Tragically, both passed away at only 27. Frank Sinatra was a major vocal influence on Jim, and I just learned that Jean-Michel was fond of listening to Sinatra, too.

I hope to write more about Basquiat's paintings at some point. There's so much to say about their compositional richness and verve together with remarkable connections to music. A show of his I attended in New York City was one of the most electrifying and memorable ever. And a grandly designed African necklace from Mali I purchased at the extraordinary Gem and Mineral Show in Tucson last week now seems to have presaged Jean-Michel coming to my attention again. One thing I have in common with him is how we both lived in Manhattan, Maui and Los Angeles during the same time period. Another is a shared deep love for Charlie Parker. We were born four years apart on master number days of eleven and twenty-two. Curious to know how Basquiat felt about Ad Reinhardt. Will have to ponder if there are any apparent connections between their paintings.

Rainbow Thunder (1996) by Michael Robinson combines African rhythms with an Indian raga


Dream-Realm (2017) by Michael Robinson opens with an African dunun establishing a rhythmic cycle of eleven beats


Sun Dance (1992) by Michael Robinson synergizes African rhythms with a range of European instrumental timbres


Porcelain Nights (1997) by Michael Robinson uses Latin percussion instruments with an Indian raga


Bhairavi (2010) by Michael Robinson uses Latin percussion instruments and rhythms with an Indian raga


Mian Ki Malhar: Three Gats (2002) by Michael Robinson uses Latin percussion instruments with an Indian raga


Night of Fire (1987) by Michael Robinson was inspired by an African sculpture


My sense is that Jean-Michel would have enjoyed my music, perhaps even inspiring some different types of paintings as he loved listening to recordings while working. As I write this, I can feel that slow motion warm and flowing, childlike innocence smile he had. When I discussed John Coltrane with Jack DeJohnette, and remarked how devastating it was that John left us so young, Jack replied that perhaps Coltrane was here the perfect amount of time to achieve what he accomplished. While it may be heartrending having to think that way to deal with such a loss, perhaps it's the best way to think of Basquiat, too.

- Michael Robinson, Los Angeles, February 2020


© 2020 Michael Robinson All rights reserved


Michael Robinson is a Los Angeles-based composer and writer (musicologist)