8 Glorious Hours of Dylan Thomas Reading Poetry–His Own & Others’

“To choose what I should read tonight, I looked through seventy odd poems of mine, and found that many are odd indeed and that some may be poems,” said Dylan Thomas in a 1949 BBC broadcast. “I decided not to choose those that strike me, still, as pretty peculiar, but to stick to a few of the ones that do move a little way towards the state and destination I imagine I intended to be theirs when, in small rooms in Wales, arrogantly and devotedly I began them.”

This introduction to an evening’s reading on the radio survives in Spotify’s playlist “Readings from Dylan Thomas,” which collects eight hours of not just the poet reading his own work, but others’ as well. (If you don’t have Spotify’s free software, you can download it here.) Though the hard-drinking, usually impecunious Thomas died young in 1953, he managed to attain an impressive degree of fame during his lifetime, especially by the standards of poets. His frequent reading tours and radio gigs ultimately made him something of a “people’s poet” for Great Britain.

“My grandfather made 145 separate engagements with the BBC,” says Thomas’ granddaughter Hannah Ellis in the British Council video on Thomas and the BBC above. “These included writing scripts, reading poetry and short stories, as well as acting. He also became a regular on many panel discussions, making him a well-known radio personality.” His ties with the radio world and resultant high public profile have kept his voice unusually well-preserved by comparison to those of his contemporaries: we can now hear him much more easily than even his fans could at the height of his fame in the late 1940s.

“I’ve bored my wife to death for years by saying (among other things that have also bored her to death) that when you listen to poetry you should always be given an idea of the ‘shape’ of the poem,” Thomas said in another BBC appearance. The 102 tracks of this Spotify playlist include a few of those non-poetic speeches, but only after a recitation of what we might call Thomas’ big hit, “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night.” But as with the catalog of any recording artist, it pays to spend more time among the deep cuts — even the poems Thomas himself might have thought “odd indeed” — and these eight hours deliver plenty of them, each with a shape of its own.

This playlist will be added to our collection, 700 Free Audio Books: Download Great Books for Free.

Related Content:

Dylan Thomas Recites ‘Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night’ and Other Poems

Dylan Thomas’ “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night” Performed by John Cale (and Produced by Brian Eno)

Hear Dylan Thomas Read Three Poems by W.H. Auden, Including “September 1, 1939”

Dylan Thomas Sketches a Caricature of a Drunken Dylan Thomas

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and style. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer, the video series The City in Cinema, the crowdfunded journalism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Angeles Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Can You Pass This Test Originally Given to 8th Graders Living in Kentucky in 1912?


Can you spell “conceive”?

Of course you can! All it takes is a device with a built-in spelling app, an innovation of which no eighth grader in the far western reaches of bluegrass area Kentucky could have conceived back in 1912.

They were, however, expected to be able to name the waters though which an English vessel would pass en route to Manila via the Suez Canal.

Can you?

While we’re at it, how much do you really know about the human liver? Enough to locate it, identify its secretions, and discourse on its size relative to other bodily glands?

If you answered yes, congratulations. There’s a good chance you’d be promoted to high school back in 1912. Not bad for a kid attending a one-room school in rural Bullit County.

And now for some extra credit, name the last battles of the Civil War, the War of 1812, and the French and Indian War. Commanding officers, too…

That’s the sort of multipart question that awaited the eighth graders converging on the Bullit County courthouse for 1912’s common exam, above. The very same courthouse in which the modern day Bullitt County History Museum is located. A civic-minded individual donated a copy of the test to this institution, and the staff put it online, thinking it might be fun for latter-day specimens like you and me to see how we measure up.

So—just for fun—try typing the phrase “commanding officer last battle french & indian war” into your search engine of choice. Forget instant gratification. Embrace the anxiety!

Common wisdom holds that standardized tests are a lot harder than they used to be. But looking at the sort of stuff your average eighth grader had to regurgitate two years prior to the start of WW1, I’m not so sure…

Thank god the Internet was there to define “kalsomining” for me. Even with the aid of a calculator, math is not my strong suit. That said, I’m usually good enough with words to get the narrative gist of any story problem.


I confess, I was so demoralized by my ignorance, I couldn’t have dreamed of attempting to figure out how much it would cost to “kalsomine” a 20 x 16 x 9 foot room, especially with a door and window involved.

Fortunately, the Bullit County Genealogical Society has seen fit to provide an online answer sheet, a digital luxury that would have gobsmacked their forebears.

SPOILER: $8.01. That’s the amount it would’ve cost to kalsomine your room at 1912 prices. (A steal, considering that a quart of White Wash Pickling Water Based Stain will run you $12.37 a quart at a nationally known hardware superstore today.)

Go ahead, take that test.

If you quail at the prospect of faring poorly against a rural 1912 eighth grader, just imagine how well he or she would do, teleported to 2016, and forced to contend with such mysteries as cyber bullying, gender politics, and offensive eggplant emojis

via The Paris Review.

Related Content:

The Open Syllabus Project Gathers 1,000,000 Syllabi from Universities & Reveals the 100 Most Frequently-Taught Books

Take the 146-Question Knowledge Test Thomas Edison Gave to Prospective Employees (1921)

Take The Near Impossible Literacy Test Louisiana Used to Suppress the Black Vote (1964)

Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine. She lives in fear that her youngest child will pen a memoir titled I Was a Homeschooled 8th Grader and Other Chillling True Life Tales. Follow her @AyunHalliday

Werner Herzog Will Teach His First Online Course on Filmmaking

One hears much, these days, about the missions of new tech companies to “disrupt” existing industries, from retail to publishing to taxi cabs to education. We’ve regarded that as primarily the domain of Silicon Valley twentysomethings, but why can’t a German filmmaker with a nearly 55-year career under his belt get in on the action? Werner Herzog, having already done much to disrupt film as we know it, has in recent years turned his attention toward disrupting film schools, which compose an industry not especially compatible with his own vision of the honest and rigorous craft of cinema.

We’ve featured Herzog’s in-person Rogue Film School workshops before, but now, according to Entertainment Weekly‘s Derek Lawrence, “online education platform MasterClass announced that Herzog will teach an online class on feature and documentary filmmaking, where the various lessons will include storytelling, cinematography, interview techniques, and how to work with actors.” The article quotes the maker of features like Fitzcarraldo and Aguirre, the Wrath of God and documentaries like Little Dieter Needs to Fly and Grizzly Man offering something like a mission statement: “Ultimately, my own goal is to be a good soldier of cinema and if I can inspire one or two of you out there, to become a good soldier, then I have done everything I should do here.”

You can learn more about Masterclass from the New York Times‘ Laura M. Holson, who describes the enterprise, the brainchild of Los Angeles-raised Silicon Valley entrepreneur David Rogier, as “a series of online courses taught by people who are the best in the world at what they do,” including Kevin Spacey on acting, Annie Leibovitz on Photography, James Patterson on bestseller-writing, Serena Williams on forehands, and Werner Herzog on filmmaking. Herzog’s course begins this summer and costs $90 — hardly free, unlike many online courses featured on our site, but far cheaper than any conventional film school, or even the $1500 Rogue Film School.

“You spend way too much time in the film school, it costs way too much money,” says the self-taught filmmaker in the course’s trailer above. “You can learn the essentials of filmmaking on your own within two weeks.” Or, in the format that MasterClass has developed as they go along just like Herzog did when he first began making movies (and, given his enduring inventiveness, continues to do today), you can ostensibly learn it in five hours of online video. You may not capture any of Herzog’s beloved “ecstatic truth” immediately afterward, but you’ll surely get your fee’s worth of thrilling stories of the filmmaking life along the way.  You can pre-enroll in his course here.

Related Content:

Werner Herzog Creates Required Reading & Movie Viewing Lists for Enrolling in His Film School

Werner Herzog’s Rogue Film School: Apply & Learn the Art of Guerilla Filmmaking & Lock-Picking

Werner Herzog Picks His 5 Favorite Films

Portrait Werner Herzog: The Director’s Autobiographical Short Film from 1986

Werner Herzog Gets Shot During Interview, Doesn’t Miss a Beat

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and style. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer, the video series The City in Cinema, the crowdfunded journalism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Angeles Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

5 Books Bill Gates Wants You to Read This Summer

Bill Gates — Microsoft CEO turned philanthropist and lifelong learner—has just recommended five books to put on your summer reading list. If you’re looking for a light beach read, you’ve come to the wrong place. But if you have a Gates-like mind, you might find that these books will make you “think in new ways” and perhaps keep you up past your bedtime. On his website, the video above comes accompanied by reasons for reading each work. Below we’re quoting directly from Mr. Gates:

Seveneves, by Neal Stephenson. I hadn’t read any science fiction for a decade when a friend recommended this novel. I’m glad she did. The plot gets going in the first sentence, when the moon blows up. People figure out that in two years a cataclysmic meteor shower will wipe out all life on Earth, so the world unites on a plan to keep humanity going by launching as many spacecraft as possible into orbit. You might lose patience with all the information you’ll get about space flight—Stephenson, who lives in Seattle, has clearly done his research—but I loved the technical details.Seveneves inspired me to rekindle my sci-fi habit.

How Not to be Wrong, by Jordan Ellenberg. Ellenberg, a mathematician and writer, explains how math plays into our daily lives without our even knowing it. Each chapter starts with a subject that seems fairly straightforward—electoral politics, say, or the Massachusetts lottery—and then uses it as a jumping-off point to talk about the math involved. In some places the math gets quite complicated, but he always wraps things up by making sure you’re still with him. The book’s larger point is that, as Ellenberg writes, “to do mathematics is to be, at once, touched by fire and bound by reason”—and that there are ways in which we’re all doing math, all the time.

The Vital Question, by Nick Lane. Nick is one of those original thinkers who makes you say: More people should know about this guy’s work. He is trying to right a scientific wrong by getting people to fully appreciate the role that energy plays in all living things. He argues that we can only understand how life began, and how living things got so complex, by understanding how energy works. It’s not just theoretical; mitochondria (the power plants in our cells) could play a role in fighting cancer and malnutrition. Even if the details of Nick’s work turn out to be wrong, I suspect his focus on energy will be seen as an important contribution to our understanding of where we come from.

The Power to Compete, by Ryoichi Mikitani and Hiroshi Mikitani. I have a soft spot for Japan that dates back three decades or so, when I first traveled there for Microsoft. Today, of course, Japan is intensely interesting to anyone who follows global economics. Why were its companies—the juggernauts of the 1980s—eclipsed by competitors in South Korea and China? And can they come back? Those questions are at the heart of this series of dialogues between Ryoichi, an economist who died in 2013, and his son Hiroshi, founder of the Internet company Rakuten. Although I don’t agree with everything in Hiroshi’s program, I think he has a number of good ideas. The Power to Compete is a smart look at the future of a fascinating country.

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, by Noah Yuval Harari. Both Melinda and I read this one, and it has sparked lots of great conversations at our dinner table. Harari takes on a daunting challenge: to tell the entire history of the human race in just 400 pages. He also writes about our species today and how artificial intelligence, genetic engineering, and other technologies will change us in the future. Although I found things to disagree with—especially Harari’s claim that humans were better off before we started farming—I would recommend Sapiens to anyone who’s interested in the history and future of our species.

You can get more ideas from Bill Gates at Gates Notes.

If you’re looking to do some more DIY education this summer, don’t miss the following rich collections:

700 Free Audio Books: Download Great Books for Free.

800 Free eBooks for iPad, Kindle & Other Devices.

1200 Free Online Courses from Top Universities.

Dan Colman is the founder/editor of Open Culture. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter,Google Plus and LinkedIn and  share intelligent media with your friends. Or better yet,sign up for our daily email and get a daily dose of Open Culture in your inbox.

245 Films by Female Directors You Can Stream Right Now on Netflix

the punk singer

Sadly, despite great strides since the 1970s, Hollywood (and filmmaking in general) is still a boys’ club, especially when it comes to those behind the camera. Until Kathryn Bigelow won her 2010 Oscar for The Hurt Locker, no female director had claimed the prize. And not a single woman has even been nominated for Best Cinematography.

Director Sally Potter calls it the cast-iron ceiling, and says it’s still very difficult to get a film made, even for a director with her pedigree.

But as somebody on this Metafilter thread suggests, if we want to support female directors, we need to watch more films by female directors. This Google Doc lists 245 films directed by women that are currently available on Netflix. It’s a mix of art house and popcorn fare, and all worth checking out…and no doubt many Open Culture readers have seen quite a few already. Here’s our Top Ten suggestions from that list, with four more thrown in for good measure. And yes, we know that Netflix is a paid service, but, not to worry, you can sign up for a month-long free trial.

There’s so many more choices at the link, from documentary to drama and horror to romance.

And while we’re at it, that other streaming service, Hulu, has the full Criterion collection, where many more female directors can be found: Agnes Varda, Catherine Breillat, Chantal Ackerman, Barbara Koppel, and more. Hulu offers a one-week free trial when you sign up.

via Metafilter

Related content:

85 Compelling Films Starring and/or Directed By Women of Color: A List Created by Director Ava DuVernay & Friends on Twitter

100 Overlooked Films Directed by Women: See Selections from Sight & Sound Magazine’s New List

An Ambitious List of 1400 Films Made by Female Filmmakers

Ted Mills is a freelance writer on the arts who currently hosts the artist interview-based FunkZone Podcast. You can also follow him on Twitter at @tedmills, read his other arts writing at tedmills.com and/or watch his films here.

Ta-Nehisi Coates’ List of 13 Recommended Books

Ta-Nehisi Coates has been riding a wave so high these past few years that most honest writers would confess to at least some small degree of envy. And yet anyone—writer or reader—who appreciates Coates’ rigorous scholarship, stylistic mastery, and enthralling personal voice must also admit that the accolades are well-earned. Winner of the National Book Award for his second autobiographical work, Between the World and Me and recipient of a MacArthur “Genius Grant,” Coates is frequently called on to discuss the seemingly intractable racism in the U.S., both its long, gritty history and continuation into the present. (On top of these credentials, Coates, an unabashed comic book nerd, is now penning the revived Black Panther title for Marvel, currently the year’s best-selling comic.)

As a senior editor at The Atlantic, Coates became a national voice for black America with articles on the paradoxes of Barack Obama’s presidency and the bootstraps conservatism of Bill Cosby (published before the comedian’s prosecution). His article “The Case for Reparations,” a lengthy, historical examination of Redlining, brought him further into national prominence. So high was Coates’ profile after his second book that Toni Morrison declared him the heir to James Baldwin’s legacy, a mantle that has weighed heavily and sparked some backlash, though Coates courted the comparison himself by styling Between the World and Me after Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time. In doing so, writes Michael Eric Dyson, “Coates did a daring thing… waged a bet that the American public could absorb even more of the epistolary device, and wrote a book-length essay to his son.”

Not only did America “absorb” the device; the nation’s readers marveled at Coates’ deft mixture of existential toughness and emotional vulnerability; his intense, unsentimental take on U.S. racist animus and his moving, loving portraits of his close friends and family. As a letter from a father to his son, the book also works as a teaching tool, and Coates liberally salts his personal narrative with the sources of his own education in African American history and politics from his father and his years at Howard University. In the wake of the fame the book has brought him, he has continued what he seems to view as a public mission to educate, and interviews and discussions with the writer frequently involve digressions on his sources of information, as well as the books that move and motivate him.

So it was when Coates sat down with New York Times Magazine and ProPublica reporter Nikole Hannah-Jones at New York’s Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture last year. You can watch the full interview at the top of the post. During the course of the hour-long talk, Coates mentioned the books below, in the hopes, he says, that “folks who read” Between the World and Me “will read this book, and then go read a ton of other books.” He both began and ended his recommendations with Baldwin.

1. “The Fire Next Time” in Collected Essays by James Baldwin.

2. The Night of the Gun: A Reporter Investigates the Darkest Story of His Life, His Own by David Carr

3. The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism by Edward E. Baptist

4. Battle Cry of Freedom: The Era of the Civil War by James McPherson

5. Making the Second Ghetto: Race and Housing in Chicago, 1940-1960 by Arnold R. Hirsch

6. Family Properties: Race, Real Estate, and the Exploitation of Black Urban America by Beryl Satter

7. Confederate States of America – Declaration of the Immediate Causes Which Induce and Justify the Secession of South Carolina from the Federal Union from Avalon Project, Lillian Goldman Law Library, Yale Law School

8. Showdown: Thurgood Marshall and the Supreme Court nomination That Changed America by Wil Haygood

9. American Slavery, American Freedom: The Ordeal of Colonial Virginia by Edmund S. Morgan

10. Racecraft: The Soul of Inequality in American Life by Karen E. Fields and Barbara J. Fields

11. When and Where I Enter: The Impact of Black Women on Race and Sex in America by Paula Giddings

12. Ida: A Sword Among Lions: Ida B. Wells and the Campaign against Lynching by Paula J. Giddings

13. Out of the House of Bondage: The Transformation of the Plantation Household by Thavolia Glymph

Finally, Coates references the famous debate between James Baldwin and William F. Buckley at Cambridge University in 1965, which you can read about and watch in full here.

via The New York Public Library

Related Content:

Toni Morrison Dispenses Writing Wisdom in 1993 Paris Review Interview

James Baldwin Bests William F. Buckley in 1965 Debate at Cambridge University

Stephen King Creates a List of 96 Books for Aspiring Writers to Read

Ernest Hemingway Creates a Reading List for a Young Writer, 1934

Michael Stipe Recommends 10 Books for Anyone Marooned on a Desert Island

Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Watch Paul McCartney Perform Live, with 10-Year-Old Leila on Bass, in Buenos Aires Yesterday

A few weeks ago, I took my kids to see Paul McCartney launch his One on One Tour in Fresno, California. The highlight? Seeing him play “Hard Day’s Night” and “Love Me Do” live for the first time since the 1960s? Not really. Watching Sir Paul wave at my kids when they held up a “Cheerio Paul” sign? Yeah, that was worth the price of the tickets alone.

But none of that compares to the scene that played out earlier this week in Buenos Aires. Above, watch little Leila sweetly ask Paul to play a little bass, get her wish granted, and rock to some “Get Back.” It’s pretty adorable.

Follow Open Culture on Facebook and Twitter and share intelligent media with your friends. Or better yet, sign up for our daily email and get a daily dose of Open Culture in your inbox. And if you want to make sure that our posts definitely appear in your Facebook newsfeed, just follow these simple steps.

Behold the Sea Organ: The Massive Experimental Musical Instrument That Makes Music with the Sea

If you ever find yourself in Zadar, Croatia, pay a visit to The Sea Organ, the experimental musical instrument created by the architect Nikola Bašić. Unveiled in 2005, the organ–made of 35 polyethylene pipes tucked under white marble steps–turns the wind and the waves into a never-ending stream of avant-garde sounds. In 2006, the Sea Organ won the 2006 European Prize for Urban Public Space. Hear it make its music above.

Follow Open Culture on Facebook and Twitter and share intelligent media with your friends. Or better yet, sign up for our daily email and get a daily dose of Open Culture in your inbox. And if you want to make sure that our posts definitely appear in your Facebook newsfeed, just follow these simple steps.

Crowdsourced Database Will Locate the Burial Sites of Forgotten US Slaves

slave grave database

Image courtesy of National Burial Database of Enslaved Americans

The stories are infrequent but deeply compelling: one recent news item in the AP’s The Big Story describes the bones of 14 people from the 18th or early 19th century, discovered in Albany, NY, “wrapped in shrouds, buried in pine boxes and—over centuries—forgotten.” Seven adults, five infants, and two children, soon to be “publically memorialized and [re]buried in personalized boxes beside prominent families in old Albany.”

Over the 11 years since the bones’ discovery by construction workers, scientists have been able to piece together clues about what these lives were like: marked by constant toil and physical hardship. Genetic markers, and broken bones, notched and missing teeth, and arthritic joints offer the only means of identifying the remains. A granite headstone donated to the new gravesite will read, “Here lies the remains of 14 souls known only to God. Enslaved in life, they are slaves no more.”

In 1991, many miles south in lower Manhattan, a find of the remains of 419 people eventually gave rise to an even more impressive memorial and museum, the African Burial Ground National Monument, a reminder of not only the slave labor that built New York City, but also of the people bought and sold in the once bustling slave market at what is now Wall Street.


Creative Commons photo by Bruce Guthrie

Memorials like this one and the recent Albany burial site do not change the facts or right the wrongs of history, but they do make visible lives and histories long buried and forgotten. “Among the scars left by the heritage of slavery,” writes Edward Rothstein at The New York Times, “one of the greatest is an absence: where are the memorials, cemeteries, architectural structures or sturdy sanctuaries that typically provide the ground for a people’s memory?” This is precisely the question Sandra Arnold is now asking, in a very literal sense, for a project called The National Burial Database of Enslaved Americans (NBDEA).

A Graduate Fellow at Brown University, Arnold founded the Periwinkle Initiative, “a public humanities and education initiative dedicated to preserving cultural heritage associated with enslaved Americans.” The NBDEA—Periwinkle’s core project in collaboration with Fordham University, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the 1772 Foundation—aims, writes Arnold at The New York Times, to “be the first national repository of information on the grave sites of individuals who died while enslaved or after they were emancipated.”

The grave sites The NBDEA compiles will depend in some part on the public: “Anyone who comes to the website will eventually be able to submit information about these places and conduct searches.” Currently, the site remains in development, unavailable for public searches, but users can make preliminary submissions. Arnold describes the process of sifting through the submissions she has received as “painful.”

Burial grounds that should be revered spaces… instead are covered by playgrounds and apartment complexes. I have learned that many grave sites of formerly enslaved Americans are abandoned, undocumented, desecrated by the asphalt of “development,” and lack any type of memorialization or recognition. The burial grounds are often found incidentally by developers under parks and office buildings, and for many of the sites, oral history is their only source of documentation.

Just such an oral history preserved the unmarked gravesite of one of Arnold’s ancestors in her hometown in West Tennessee. Allison Meier at Hyperallergic points to some specifically troubled sites like those Arnold describes, including “a slave cemetery… bulldozed in Houston,” another “covered with asphalt in Atlanta,” and a third “found below a Harlem bus depot.”

Arnold hopes that recording and memorializing these “sacred spaces… can contribute to healing, understanding and potentially even reconciliation.” Additionally, she cites a “pragmatic” rationale for the project, since “burial grounds are valuable resources for scholars and historians, serving as road maps for genealogical and historical research.”

The project presents a tremendous opportunity for the many thousands of citizen historians scattered across the country to come together and fill in the absences in our historical memory; and the centralized database will also draw more attention to the few memorials that do exist, many of which, writes Meier, “are often staggeringly small in relation to the number of lives they remember.” She refers to the example of a “miniature mass grave monument” in Memphis’ Elmwood Cemetary (above), a “single stone [that] memorializes over 300 slaves who died between 1852 and 1865.”

Like The Freedman’s Bureau Project, a recent online database of 1.5 million historical documents related to slavery, The NBDEA will further historicize and humanize “overlooked lives,” writes Arnold, that “are an inextricable part of the historical narrative of our country.”

Can can visit The National Burial Database of Enslaved Americans here.

via Hyperallergic

Related Content:

1.5 Million Slavery Era Documents Will Be Digitized, Helping African Americans to Learn About Their Lost Ancestors

Freed Slave Writes Letter to Former Master: You Owe Us $11,680 for 52 Years of Unpaid Labor (1865)

The Anti-Slavery Alphabet: 1846 Book Teaches Kids the ABCs of Slavery’s Evils

Visualizing Slavery: The Map Abraham Lincoln Spent Hours Studying During the Civil War

Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

The Night John Belushi Cartwheeled Onstage During a Grateful Dead Show & Sang “U.S. Blues” with the Band (1980)

Sure, I know ice truckers and snow crab fishermen have it rough, but I’ve always thought the hardest job in the world is to be a comedian. You walk out on stage, night after night, throwing yourself on the mercy of the fickle crowd, with nothing but your wits to keep you afloat. It’s never been any wonder to me that so many comedians turn to various substances to cope with the heckling, chilly silences, and disinterested, half-empty rooms. Even successful, beloved comics face tremendous performance pressures. Some of them crack.

And some, like John Belushi, hop onstage during a Grateful Dead show at the Capitol Theatre, cartwheel over to a microphone before the chorus of “U.S. Blues,” and join in on backing vocals.

Belushi’s impromptu 1980 prank performance with the Dead was not, initially, welcomed. He had, reports Live for Live Music, “met with some resistance from the band” when he asked to join in during the encore, and drummer Bill Kreutzmann “had to nix Belushi’s wishes.” So Belushi, true to form, took matters into his own anarchic hands, staging what Kreutzmann called in his 2015 autobiography a “comedic ambush.”

He had on a sport coat with small American flags stuffed into both of his breast pockets and he landed his last cartwheel just in time to grab a microphone and join in on the chorus. The audience and everyone in the band—except for Phil—ate it up. It couldn’t have been rehearsed better. Belushi had impeccable comedic timing, musicality, balls, the works. And apparently, he didn’t take no for an answer.

Belushi’s musical antics, and surprising acrobatic agility, are already well-known to fans of The Blues Brothers. His penchant for real-life musical chaos—such as his staging of an authentically riotous punk show on Saturday Night Live—have also become part of his estimable comic legend.

Sadly, no video of the stunt seems to exist, but you can see Kreutzmann tell the Belushi story in the interview at the top of the post and, just above, hear that night’s encore performance of “U.S. Blues.” Listen closely at around the 1:50 mark and you’ll hear Belushi join in on the chorus. We’ll have to imagine the cartwheels, but it probably looked something like this.

Hear the full Dead show from that night here. And if you’re craving more musical Belushi, check out his spasmodic impression of the late, great Joe Cocker.

Related Content:

Young John Belushi Imitates Truman Capote & Performs Live on Second City Stage (1972)

The Night John Belushi Booked the Punk Band Fear on Saturday Night Live, And They Got Banned from the Show

Stream 36 Recordings of Legendary Grateful Dead Concerts Free Online (aka Dick’s Picks)

Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness