David Amram Remembers Lawrence Ferlinghetti

by David Amram

We first met in 1956 when his Pictures of the Gone World was first published, and one of my joys in life was being able to see him every time I came back to San Francisco.

In 1995, when we were at an event for the De Young Museum, Lawrence invited me to a participate in a recording of Pictures of the Gone World and asked me to create music for him while he read. We did the whole album in one three hour take.

Playing with Lawrence, you couldn’t go wrong. In 2003 he invited me to come for City Lights’ 50th Anniversary opening night and be the host, performing for an evening of poetry and music as I had done with Kerouac in 1957 in NYC at the city’s first-ever public jazz/poetry readings.
San Francisco’s wonderful photographer Larry Keenan documented highlights of our five hour marathon celebrating City Lights’ 50th anniversary (as you can see below).

Photographer Larry Keenan’s documentation of a sterling event!

For City Lights Books 50th Anniversary Celebration, David Amram was invited by Lawrence Ferlinghetti to host, and play and accompany poets and authors for the opening night in 2003 at the Bookstore. Larry Keenan’s comments and photos are attached below.

David Amram and Floyd Red Crow


San Francisco 2003

The great composer and musician, David Amram hosted the performances at the evening event celebrating the 50th anniversary of City Lights Books. He did his scat-talk rap about City Lights. I heard his jive/poetry before at the Whitney and the Smithsonian Beat events, which was always topical and to the point and always amazing. In this photograph he is playing with the native American, Floyd Red Crow Westerman.

Michael McClure


San Francisco 2003

Michael McClure is reading his Haiku poems at the Amram event, he is very entertaining and gives a great reading.

Michael and Amy Evans McClure, and John Allen Cassady


San Francisco 2003

Michael and Amy Evans McClure are siting next to John Cassady, Neal’s son. John and I had e-mailed each other before but never met. After the Amram event we spoke. He told me I looked too young to have photographed his dad shaving at Ginsberg’s. I told him that I am older on the inside.

Lawrence Ferlinghetti

San Francisco 2003

During the Amram event, Lawrence was moved to recite some impromptu poetry from his office/storeroom balcony. The capacity crowd loved it.

Herb Gold


San Francisco 2003

At the Amram event I finally got to meet Herb Gold. I have contributed my photographs to a couple of his pieces about the Beats over the years. I sat in a special section reserved for the speakers and asked him who he was, we both knew each other by reputation. He told me that if I got a good shot of him, he would use it on his next book.

Amram’s caricature of Ferlinghetti

When I returned to NY, I made this little pen and ink caricature for him as a thank you note for all that he had continued to do all his life as a great artist who still  always kept it for real and  who never let success or struggles stop him from pursuing what he felt he was put here to do, And he always encouraged others! In 1995, eight years prior to the 50th Anniversary of the City Lights bookstore, Lawrence invited me to make the recording with him of Pictures of the Gone World. This little caricature was my thank you note which I sent to him after I returned to New York.

David Amram and Lawrence Ferlinghetti at City Lights Bookstore 2007 (photo courtesy of Ashley Vaughn). Published by Routledge/Taylor and Francis for Amram’s book Offbeat: Collaborating with Kerouac

Here is a great photo of us in 2007 at the City Lights Bookstore, and one from 1995 when we were recording his poetry with my music.

Below is another photo from 1995 When we were recording a DVD/CD of Lawrence’s 1956 book of poetry Pictures of the Gone World. Just got this photo from Chris Felver, which he donated for cultural and educational use, and was never used!!
Chris Felver’s two films about Lawrence are classics!!
Chris was at the recording session in 1995 and took the picture when Lawrence and I TOOK ONE TEN MINUTE BREAK!

Lawrence Ferlinghetti and David Amram during a break when they recorded Pictures of the Gone World as a DVD/CD atZoetrope Studios in San Francisco in 1995
(Photo courtesy of Chris Felver)

We can all be thankful for Lawrence’s beautiful writing and his tireless commitment to making the world a better place. All best cheers, stay creative in whatever you do, and enjoy life as Lawrence did.