Appreciating Dave Bearden

By Dion Wright, April 3, 2012

My credential for trying to write some true words about David Omer Bearden is that he was my friend for half a century. I have an inkling of what made him an artist, and also an idea of what irritated him. Therefore, although an inadequate vessel from which to pour Pertinence, I do believe that I can be sensible, at least marginally, to Dave's aesthetic, and to step around any explosive follies that would irritate him if he were still with us.

The first thing to wonder is, Who Is the Man? Because we are more alike than different, one can know something. It is probably true that Dave's writings are...

...Tumultuous verbal ecosystems influenced by other worlds, other galaxies, even, but...

...intersecting organically, humorously and playfully, despite the vexation of trying to do it while hanging from the cross, and knowing it. His triumph and salvation would be in writing universally and individualistically enough to be understood by other intelligent, sensitive and experienced natives, if only by inference.

He, like Dali, was a surviving twin whose Art was informed by the missing Other.

He was excruciatingly sensitive and complicated.

He lived with a broken heart.

He was kind.

He had language crackling through his cortex, and shimmering from his fingertips like a St. Elmo's fire of the soul. He occupied Poet. By the time he wrote The Thing in Packy Innard's Place, his poems had become transmogrified into paragraphs, but his paragraphs can hardly be regarded as prose. Meter there was truly his march to a different drummer.

It's fair to ask: If David Omer Bearden was so brilliant, why has he remained so obscure?, and this is a real conundrum. Two possibilities might be that either I am mistaken in my appreciation of him, or, Dave was SO bright that he either blinded his influential peers, or scared them witless.

Then again, to be lionized in his lifetime could not have been a fate that Dave would have viewed with other than horrified alarm. He was a man at home, if not quite comfortable, in obscurity, living his life emulating Christ among the lepers. Working in the homeless shelter like a compassionate scientist, discovering a completely new specie within each Godly skin, gave him perspective.

Lady Luck had dropped him into the University of Post-Beat Values, San Francisco campus, around 1960. As far as talent is concerned, he would have glowed as warmly and expressed as sufferingly, in any other incarnation. For an artist like Dave Bearden, razor-sharp feelings, and an outraged moral sense are natural fertilizer. A Rose by any other name would still be an Ace.

So he worked on, the kaleidoscopic, Byzantine meanderings of an elegant mind functioning in fine balance between inspiration and intention, which are by no means the same. His imagery derived from realtime experience on the seamy side, which his poet's beatitude raised to such a transcendence that much is required of the reader.

Poets sometimes explode with radiance and then die young. This is the romantic model that so appeals to the sophomoric, but which is not a literary necessity. In David Omer Bearden's case, he burned bright and early, intimidated his colleagues, and then continued to survive, getting painfully battered the way life does to everybody. The upside of living a long life as a poet may be that suffering ceases to be an aesthetic foundation for preciousness, and becomes the coin of the realm. In a great poet's life, the drubbings of experience cut far deeper than with ordinary mortals. It becomes a miracle of creation when the infrequent psychic alchemy occurs which transmutes ugly experience into beautiful Art.


Record Collector Magazine, December 2008, Issue 356, UK
By Michael Saltzman

Musician/poet, died 4 September, Scranton, Pennsylvania, aged 68. Bearden is best known for his personal and professional relationship with Judee Sill. This inspired her Heart Food (1973), and Bearden played on it, as well as writing "When The Bridegroom Comes". Bearden also published four books of poetry.

Good Friend Passes – David Omer Bearden R.I.P.

American Dust, September 9, 2008

American Dust was sad to hear today of the passing on September 4 of poet and musician David Omer Bearden. Best known to music fans as the lover and sometime muse of 70s genius singer-songwriter Judee Sill, Bearden performed on and inspired Judee's tour de force sophomore album, Heart Food. He also wrote the lyrics for one of that album's finest songs, the heartbreakingly lovely “When the Bridegroom Comes.” In addition to his work with Judee, Bearden traveled widely as a poet and ran with the likes of Ken Kesey, Neal Cassady and Kirk Douglas. Lucky devil.

His presence on this earth will be missed.

David Omer Bearden: Poet, Writer, Musician, & Traveler

Palo Verde Valley Times – Obituray, September 15, 2008

David Omer Bearden peacefully passed away September 4, 2008 in Scranton, PA at the VNA Hospice & Palliative Care Center from a short illness. He was 68.

On January 20, 1940 David Omer Bearden was born a twin to Daniel Herbert Bearden in Blythe, California on Lovekin Blvd. (David's twin succumbed leukemia at an early age of two and half.) Son of carpenter/contractor Omer Adair Bearden & mother Nellie Corene Bearden, homemaker, music lover, & seamstress.

In boyhood, David entertained by reciting lyrical poems, stories, & songs for: church, fraternal organizations, & on Kyor Radio Station in Blythe. After graduating high school, in Mangum Oklahoma, he majored in English Literature at Tulsa University.

As a man, his wandering ways led him to New York City where he established himself as a poet & publisher. At Columbia University a scatological poem scandalized & instaurated the so-called “Mimeograph Revolution”.

Then it was across the states to San Francisco, to meet Neal Cassady whom David hero-worshipped (subject of "On the Road" by Jack Kerouac). He also ran with Charley Plymell.

He later met his match with singer, songwriter, & musical artist Judee Sill. Together they explored the “other” & recorded the music album, “Heart Food”. They toured internationally, including performances at the prestigious & legendary Royal Albert Hall in London.

He spent his last 15 years living in Scranton, PA. He worked at Catholic Charities Homeless Shelter, which inspired him to write a prose called, “The Homeless Stars”. It appeared in “Welcoming Hands”, the Catholic Social Services Newsletter.

When David reached retirement, he dedicated five years to writing a book called, “The Thing In Packy Innard's Place” which remains completed and unpublished. The book is a poetic description of Scranton, it's people and landscape.

Another tribute to Scranton is David's short story/prose called “Pat Langan's Place”. David has been called the Apocalypse Rose, a poet, writer, artist, musician, iconoclast, outlaw, traveler, & extraterrestrial.

He moved in widening circles that included Tulsa, Oklahoma, New York City, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, Hollywood, San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, Oregon, Seattle, London, & Scranton, Pennsylvania.

David worked various trades such as a lumberjack, carpenter, clerk, hotel auditor, combine operator, morgan horse ranch hand, librarian & caretaker at a homeless shelter.

In addition to his feline companion Nube, David is survived by three step daughters, Lesley, Theresa, & Astra; his muse, Johanna; one sister, Phyllis; one brother, James; five nephews, Preston, Phillip, Kevin, Patrick, & Edward; two nieces, Cydney & Lisa; former wife, Judith; former partner, Barbara, and other relatives and friends.

Possessing intelligent wit & biting insight, he was also known to raise a glass, laugh out loud, have dignified manners & be a profane irreverent. David will be sorely missed but his light & spirit will always be close to the many who loved him & got to share the world through his eyes.

Adiós, David & Thank you!