Gary Snyder, Peter Coyote, Joanne Kyger and Huey Lewis: Celebrating Lew Welch

“I’m looking to see if there’s a guy who looks like Lew Welch in this audience,” says poet Gary Snyder at a San Francisco tribute to Welch, the complex Beat poet who was represented as the soulful, restless Dave Wain in Jack Kerouac’s novel Big Sur.

It’s a cutting thought, because Gary Snyder was among the last to see Lew Welch alive before the troubled poet wandered into the forest surrounding Gary Snyder’s home to kill himself. Welch left a suicide note, but his body was never found.

City Lights has recently published Ring of Bone, the most comprehensive collection of Welch’s life’s work (we recently reviewed the book, and you can read more about it at HTMLGiant). Many notable old friends of Welch gathered last month to celebrate the book. Videos of short tributes by Gary Snyder, Joanne Kyger, Peter Coyote and others can be found at the City Lights blog.


The most unusual moment at this celebration was a rare appearance by 80s rocker Huey Lewis. Huey was Lew Welch’s stepson. His mother Magda Cregg was also in the audience. In what must be Huey’s first public expression about his enigmatic stepfather, the pop-soul belter credits Welch with inspiring him in his early teenage years. “He really was a star,” Huey Lewis says of his stepfather’s performance skills. Beat poets were like rock stars in those days, he goes on, describing Welch as a great teacher and “really a very musical cat”. Lewis goes on to sing a scatalogical song called “Graffiti” that he remembers Welch singing around the house. Enjoy!

6 Responses

  1. I wish Huey Lewis had
    I wish Huey Lewis had recorded Graffiti with his band for his Sports album, but that would have marred his squeaky clean pop rock image, and he might have been banned in a few southern states. It could have been a cool B side, though…

  2. ..all poets are truly singers
    ..all poets are truly singers…because the full creative potential of a poem isn’t fully realized until an audio version has been performed. However, the performance can be done by someone other than the creator. Only the true ‘stars’ can do both really well….action poetry spontaneous idea…audio capabilities….I predict a Huey Lewis revival…that was a great clip…

  3. Nicely said. My wife and I
    Nicely said. My wife and I caught Huey and the News not too long ago at an outdoor concert. He was pretty good, though he seemed bored by his hits. My favorite Huey Lewis song is “Bad Is Bad”.

  4. i always get a kick out of
    i always get a kick out of hearing Gary Snyder read. I wish Lew Welch was still with us.

  5. Keep that Beat alive……saw
    Keep that Beat alive……saw this a couple a weeks ago and bought the new ring of bone a month or so back…Lew a favorite of mine ever since I read Aram Saroyan’s genesis angels…..Lew wrote an amazing article about Richard Brautigan that’s in the book how I work as a poet, along with many other gems…he was in a long line of William Carlos Williams disciples …….always liked Huey, never did buy any of his albums……

  6. Finally, got to meet Gary
    Finally, got to meet Gary Snyder after the reading..I found him a bit of a bully–firstly, he accused me of cutting in front of the person I was with whose book he had just signed ..some one else(an insider) had interrupted him with some time-share pamphlets or something in the interim… signed 2 of the 4 books I brought in–his and Lew’s–Wouldn’t sign the Kerouac books(1st ed Big Sur and Dharma Bums) and preposterously he tried to tell me that Jarry Wagner was not him but a real person…think he forgot Jack’s admonition about using the diamond cutter of mercy…I tried to remind him….Shikata ga nai

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