Magazine article The Wilson Quarterly

Moondogfight: Name That Tunemeister

Magazine article The Wilson Quarterly

Moondogfight: Name That Tunemeister

Article excerpt

Plenty of bizarre scenes have unfolded in the courtrooms of New York City, but few quite like the case of Hardin v. Freed (1954).

Plaintiff Louis Thomas Hardin Jr., blind since his teens, had a long beard, wore a Viking helmet or other eccentric headgear, carried a six-foot stick, and drank from a hollowed-out antler. He also composed, played, and recorded eclectic music, often in such unorthodox time signatures as 5/4. "The human race," he maintained, "is going to die in 4/4 time."

Across the courtroom sat defendant Alan Freed, coiner of "rock 'n' roll" and a fast-rising radio star with a knack for picking hits. Earlier in 1954 he had left WJW in Cleveland for the big time, WINS in New York.

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Scruffy plaintiff and squeaky-clean defendant had little in common except one thing: the moniker "Moondog."

Hardin started calling himself Moondog in 1947, according to Moondog: The Viking of Sixth Avenue (Process Media), by Robert Scotto. (The book features an introduction by composer Philip Glass and a CD with 28 of Hardin's compositions.) Hardin said that a lame dog from his peripatetic boyhood had howled at the moon, inspiring the name. …

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