Remember Donny and Marie Osmond, the toothy, teenage Mormon siblings whose eponymous television variety show was a wholesome 70’s mix of skits, songs, and ice skating?
Their surprisingly enduring theme song reduced their popularity to an easily graspable binary formula:
She was a little bit country. He was a little bit rock and roll.
Turns out Marie was also more than a little bit Dada.
From 1985 to 1986, Marie served as actor Jack Palance’s cohost on Ripley’s Believe It or Not, a TV series exploring strange occurrences, bizarre historical facts, and other such crowd-pleasing oddities… one of which was apparently the aforementioned European avant-garde art movement, founded a hundred years ago this week.
If you don’t know as much about Dada as you’d like, Ms. Osmond’s brief primer is a surprisingly sturdy introduction.
No cutesy bootsy, easy references to melting clocks here.
The highlight is her performance of Dada poet and manifesto author Hugo Ball’s nonsensical 1916 sound poem “Karawane.”
Lose the yellow bathrobe and she could be a captive warrior princess on Game of Thrones, fiercely petitioning the Mother of Dragons on behalf of her people. (Invent some subtitles for extra Dada-inflected fun!)
A sharp eyed young art student named Ethan Bates did catch one error in Marie’s lesson. The ’13’ costume she pulls from a handy dressing room niche was not worn by Hugo Ball, but rather Dutch painter Theo Van Doesburg, one of the founders of the De Stijl movement.
Still you’ve got to hand it to Marie, who was slated to perform just a single line of the poem. When it came time to tape, she abandoned the cue cards, blowing producers’ and crew’s minds by delivering the poem in its unhinged entirety from memory.
Now that’s rock and roll.
Below you’ll find footage of Ball himself performing the work in 1916.
Marie’s version was eventually released by Rough Trade Records as a track on Lipstick Traces, a companion soundtrack to Greil Marcus’ seminal book.
Dada Was Born 100 Years Ago: Celebrate the Avant-Garde Movement Launched by Hugo Ball on July 14, 1916
Hear the Experimental Music of the Dada Movement: Avant-Garde Sounds from a Century Ago
Download All 8 Issues of Dada, the Arts Journal That Publicized the Avant-Garde Movement a Century Ago (1917-21)
Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine. Follow her @AyunHalliday
Ooh! Now we need a Marie Osmond/Talking Heads’ “I Zimbra” mashup!
Wow! My respect for Marie Osmond just increased by a factor of one skidillion.
This recitation may be better than the recording on Poets.org!
It’s funny to see Youtube’s closed caption trying make sense of the words.