"A Palisadian Jazz Poet Speaks"

by Caroline Ryder
Photo courtesy of David Hayward

A decade after Beat author Jack Kerouac prophesized the American "rucksack revolution", Dave Hayward, a talented young jazz musician with a taste for liquor, found himself right in the middle of it. It was 1970 and the 28-year-old musician was touring the country with Janis Joplin and her hippie entourage, riding the wave of the new counterculture. But unlike Joplin, Hayward had little time for flower children. "I did the sixties hard-core but I was never a hippie," says Hayward, who has lived in the Palisades since he was a child. "I never shared those values. I was more of a libertarian, if anything. For me, those times were just about the music."

Dave had been playing the trumpet since he was a teenager, and got his first real break at 24. Completely inebriated, he somehow managed to persuade jazz legend Sonny Rollins to let him play with him. "He was playing a show in Hollywood and I was there, totally loaded," remembers Dave. "He took a break and I went up to him and asked if I could stand in. I would never have done that sober. It's like asking God if you can stand in for him." But Rollins was impressed by his enthusiasm, and invited Dave to join him for six months, playing venues in New York City. The two remain friends to this day. "It was the single greatest musical experience of my life," said Hayward. "If you had asked me at the age of 16 who I would die to work with, it would have been Sonny Rollins."

Hayward went on to tour with big-name musicians including The Righteous Brothers, and was asked to join Joplin's band in 1970. By then, the "phoniness" of the hippie movement was already starting to grate. "They thought it was very chic to hate anything ‘conventional'," he said. "But behind the peace and love slogans, there was violence and elitism, which I hated."

Even though Joplin was an icon of the movement he despised, they became friends - thanks to their shared love of booze. "She and I were the only alcoholics in the band," explained Hayward, who has been sober since 1974. "But she would always take things to the extreme."

When he heard she had died of a heroin overdose six months after they finished the tour, he wasn't surprised. "We used to worry about something like that happening," he said. "I remember she'd do her sound check in the afternoon, and her roadie was always wondering whether she'd O.D. before the evening's gig."

Over the years Hayward found himself drawn to other art forms, especially poetry. "I'm a musician, and I started to realize that all great poetry has music in it," he said. He was inspired by the poetry of WH Auden and Dylan Thomas, joking "they were alcoholics, just like me." After publishing some poems with the Topanga Poets, he recently put out his own collection, a 51-page book called "The Lowered Bucket". He will read from it at Village Books in the Palisades this month, in a collaborative reading with poet, pacifist and – dare we say it – peacenik John Harris.

"I suppose you could say I'm a hippie," said Harris, founder of the Venice Poetry Workshop, LA's oldest poetry workshop, who fostered a generation of Los Angeles writers as a mentor and publisher. He also ran famous bookstore ‘Papa Bach', a hub for Conscientious Objectors during the Viet Nam War. "Dave and I do have our differences in opinion when it comes to politics and so on," said John, "but we do have a lot of things in common – jazz and poetry. That's all you need."

Dave Hayward and John Harris appear at Village Books (310 454 4063), 1049 Swarthmore Ave., Pacific Palisades, Thursday April 8 at 7.30pm in celebration of National Poetry Month.

An Excerpt from "Clatter"
A poem from "The Lowered Bucket" by Dave Hayward

I'm simply a bucket in a hole
Banging my way up and out
In to the light.

Musician, poet, joined at the root, sessile
I rattle and splash my way back
To pure expectancy;
Non-being, out of reach.

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