Published on September 5, 2012 by Carol
In 1979, Trudell met Jackson Browne and became interested in the musical world. Trudell recorded an album, A.K.A Graffiti Man, with the Kiowa guitarist Jesse Ed Davis. It was first available only on cassette tape. In 1992 Trudell remade A.K.A Graffiti Man.
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His greatest success came with the 1994 album “Johnny Damas & Me” described as “a culmination of years of poetic work, and an example of a process of fusing traditional sounds, values, and sensibilities with thought-provoking lyrics, this time with urgent rock and roll.”
More recent releases include Blue Indians (1999), Descendant Now Ancestor (2001), Bone Days (2001), Madness and Moremes (2007) and CRAZIER THAN HELL (2010).
One critic said of Trudell’s live performances that: “This isn’t simply pop rock with Indian drums and chants added. It’s integrated rock and roll by an American Indian with a multicultural band directed to anyone who will listen.”
About six months after the deaths of his family, Trudell started writing. He describes his poetry as the following: “They’re called poems but in reality they’re lines given to me to hang on to.” He has written many poems, including “Baby Boom Che” and “Rant and Roll”. He sets his poetry as lyrics for recordings, and in 1982 started to set them to traditional American Indian music.
In late 1988, Midnight Oil took Trudell (as Graffiti Man) on tour with them for From Diesel and Dust to the Big Mountain. They billed themselves as a Native American activist performance act. They played traditional instruments, sang in native American languages, and accompanied the songs with heavy Hendrix-style guitar. This brought Trudell to a new and larger audience.
Trudell toured in 1993 with Peter Gabriel’s WOMAD tour. He was billed as John Trudell, performing his traditional songs and reading his poetry. In 2008, he published a book, Lines From a Mined Mind: The Words of John Trudell, a collection of 25 years of poetry, lyrics and essays.
Trudell created a career as an actor, performing in roles in Thunderheart (1992), On Deadly Ground (1995) and Smoke Signals (1998) (as the Radio speaker Randy Peone on K-REZ radio). He was an adviser to the production of Incident at Oglala, directed by Michael Apted and produced by Robert Redford. A kind of companion piece to the fictional Thunderheart, the 1992 documentary explores facts related to the 1975 shooting of two FBI agents at the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, for which Leonard Peltier was convicted in 1976.
The filmmaker Heather Rae spent more than a decade making a documentary about Trudell, which was released in 2005. Her intent in Trudell (2005) was to demonstrate how his political and cultural activities were tied to contemporary history and inspired people. The film premiered at the 2005 Sundance Film Festival in the U.S. documentary competition. The movie has received a mixed response among film critics and viewers. Some claimed it to be thought-provoking and touching, while others suggested Rae made a one-dimensional biopic. The song used at the end of the film is “Johnny Lobo” by Kris Kristofferson, from his A Moment of Forever