“The Viking of Sixth Avenue” is a compilation album by Moondog (real name: Louis Thomas Hardin, 1916–1999), an American composer, musician, and poet who had been known as a street performer in New York City from the late 1940s until 1972.
The album contains 36 tracks selected from his recordings from 1949 to 1995.
It was released as a double LP in 2004 and as a CD in 2005 by Honest Jon’s Records, UK.
Louis Hardin was born in Marysville, Kansas in 1916. After losing his eyesight in an explosive accident at the age of 16, he mostly taught himself musical skills and theory, attending schools for the blind and reading books in braille.
Hardin lived in New York City from the late 1940s until 1972, where he worked as a street performer and a poet, busking and selling his printed music and records.
Hardin began using the name “Moondog” as a pen name in 1947.
At that time, he was recognized as “the Viking of Sixth Avenue” by passersby and residents because he put on a Viking costume with a cloak and a horned helmet to avoid his resemblance in appearance to Christ.
This album is the first compilation that overviewed Moondog’s entire music career, spanning over several music labels. It features many rare tracks, including his early singles and EPs recorded in the late 1940s and the 1950s.
Moondog’s music is an eclectic mix of styles: jazz (swing and bebop), classical, Native American music, and Latin American music (rumba). It is characterized by its pulse-like rhythm influenced by Native American music, counterpoint like J.S. Bach, irregular time signature excluding 4/4 time, use of musical instruments he invented, and incorporation of environmental sounds in the city such as subway trains and foghorns. It is avant-garde, but humorous and accessible.
His music of the 1940s and 1950s had a strong influence on early minimal music composers, such as Philip Glass and Steve Reich.
American rock band Big Brother & the Holding Company featuring Janis Joplin covered “All Is Loneliness” on their 1967 self-titled album.
“Lament 1 (Bird’s Lament)” was released on the 1969 album “Moondog”. It was a chaconne written to commemorate American jazz saxophonist Charlie Parker. It was sampled in several songs including “Get a Move On” (1999) by English record producer and DJ Mr. Scruff.