Sun Ra Inspires Mute Patient to Talk for the First Time

Born Herman Blount in 1914 Birmingham, Alabama, at a time of deep segregation, jazz’s interstellar voyager Sun Ra was already an outsider before he’d even opened his eyes for the first time. From his fearless aural explorations and enlightening mytho-theo-philosophy to claims of hailing from Saturn, Ra operated on a different frequency than most – all of which makes the recent findings of his healing musical powers in some ways, unsurprising.

Found in the 1997 biography Space Is the Place: The Lives and Times of Sun Ra by John F. Szwed, the story goes that in the late 50’s Sun Ra’s manager Alton Abraham booked his client at a Chicago mental hospital to play a show. “While he was playing,” Szwed writes, “a woman who it was said had not moved or spoken for years got up from the floor, walked directly to his piano, and cried out ‘Do you call that music?’” Sun Ra seemed “delighted with her response, and told the story for years afterwards as evidence of the healing powers of music.”

There are gestures of the occasion found in his discography, composing the song ‘Advice for Medics’ which commemorates the mental hospital gig alongside other records like Cosmic Tones for Mental Therapy.

Often dismissed as bonkers by jazz buffs at the time, the 21st century has seen him recognised as one of the greatest musical minds and innovators of the last century, and with stories like the above, it seems rightly so.

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