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What Time Is It?
by Ken Nordine
Ken Nordine (1920 to 2019) was an American voiceover and recording artist. Ken Nordine was born in Cherokee, Iowa, USA, on April 13th 1920. The son of parents originating from Sweden, he and the family later moved to Chicago, where he attended Lane Technical College Prep High School and the University of Chicago. Although possibly best-known for releasing a series of 'word jazz' albums, he also cultivated a long career as a voice artiste. He was the narrator for Philip Kaufman's 1967 underground comedy "Fearless Frank", and was Linda Blair's vocal coach for her role in the 1973 film "The Exorcist". He also narrated several films made for school classroom use by 'Coronet Instructional Films' in the 1950s, and even appeared on screen in one of them ("Developing Your Character"). He also completed a series of readings for broadcast on TV. His distinctive voice featured during many commercial advertisements and movie trailers, and during the 1940s it could be heard on radio programmes such as "The World's Great Novels", broadcast from Chicago. He recorded Honore de Balzac's short story "Une passion dans le Desert" for the 1955 album "Passion in the Desert", and in the same year provided the voiceover on Billy Vaughn's version of "Shifting Whispering Sands" (it peaked at No. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100). He subsequently attracted wider attention when he recorded the aural vignettes on the LPs "Word Jazz", "Love Words" and "Son of Word Jazz", all for 'Dot Records'. Other albums recorded by him in this vein included his narration over 'cool jazz' by the 'Fred Katz Group' (it also featured Chico Hamilton recording under an alias). His performances and recordings of albums were most popular at the peak of the 'beat' era, being deeply associated with the 'poetry-and-jazz' movement. His writings were sometimes compared to those by Franz Kafka or Edgar Allan Poe, and many of his 'word jazz' tracks featured critiques of societal norms. He worked with Jerry Garcia (of 'The Grateful Dead') in 1990 as the anchor for a New Year's Eve radio broadcast from Oakland, California, providing improvisations with Garcia, drummer Mickey Hart and Egyptian musician Hamza El-Din. It subsequently led to an album, "Devout Catalyst", being released on the band's own label in 1991, as well as another, "Upper Limbo", in 1993. In 2007, he performed at the David Bowie-curated High Line Festival in New York, and a DVD of his work, "The Eye Is Never Filled", was released in the same year. He and his actress wife Beryl Vaughn, who he had married in 1945, raised three sons - sadly, she pre-deceased him in 2016. Ken Nordine died in Chicago on February 16th 2019, aged 98.
Posted: 24th March 2019
Hundreds of very talented musicians pass away each year, some without much recognition at all. On "Rest In Peace", I aim to give them a fitting 'send-off', with a decent Tribute. I hope you will join me in marking their passing.....
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