Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Kodac Harrison, 60, finds success on his own terms

Posted By on Wed, Apr 8, 2009 at 11:58 PM

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On Friday April 10, Atlanta musician/poet Kodac Harrison celebrates his 60th birthday and the release of his new live CD Reach For the Moon at Eddie's Attic, 515 N. McDonough St. $10 (advance). $13 (door). 9 p.m.

Here, in his own words, is his story.

I grew up in Jackson, Ga., and my first influences came from Macon — Otis Redding and the Allman Brothers. I was a first lieutenant in the Army right after Vietnam, and training was cut back so I had plenty of time to play guitar and to read. I discovered John Steinbeck, who became my favorite author. My first professional gig was at a place called East of Eden in Salinas, California, about two months after I got out of the Army.

I moved up to a communal community in West Virginia and continued to play guitar. For several years I went back and forth between Georgia and West Virginia, but often felt isolated and longed for the excitement of the city. I moved up to New York City for awhile, and down in the Village a club owner told me I should put together a band and record an album. I knew I would have an easier time doing that in Atlanta, so I moved back and recorded my first album in 1984.

I wanted to be a rock star, and pursued that until twenty years ago this past March. I got involved in a recording project ... and discovered that the deal was not what I had understood it to be. I hadn't signed anything, but this recording was good and finished. I agonized over this. I could not stand the thought of compromising my principles. I hated myself for getting into this situation; I was torn.

This was the situation that led to the night of March 10/11, 1989, when I came as close to death as one can come and still survive. I can't blame anyone else for my drunken spill out of a moving vehicle; no one forced me to drink that night. My surgeon put my odds for survival at one in 100 and, after six and a half hours of surgery, said he didn't think I would live. If I did, it would be in a vegetative state. I'm not sure why I survived. Five days on life support and two weeks later, I was out of the hospital on my way to full recovery.

After this, my attitude had changed. I decided to pursue my dreams on my own terms. I decided to start my own record company and pursue my dreams with as little compromise as possible, and I would not give up my rights or my dignity.

The creative process adds life to my living, gives me the greatest thrill. Whether it is writing a song, or a poem, or standing on stage in front of a large crowd of people surrounded by great musicians playing my songs, it is what I live for. In the beginning it was just playing guitar, but in the years since I have opened myself up to so much more. I've seen the spoken word scene explode. I think I can take a small amount of credit for helping to facilitate that growth. There are those who don't even think of me as a musician, only through my involvement with spoken word and poetry. I'm very involved as chairman of Poetry Atlanta and with my work with Poetry at Tech. Maybe my biggest achievement is bringing Atlanta's poetry and spoken word scenes together with Java Monkey Speaks, which I have been hosting and booking every Sunday night for almost 8 years. Another one of the things I'm celebrating is my theatrical debut at 7 Stages just a year ago, and I'm having my first art show at the Sycamore Place Gallery on Sat., April 18.

Maybe my accident doomed me to a life with little financial success, but I have no regrets. I feel I have been very fortunate to have art and creativity as the focus of my life, while staying in the game as long as I have. I feel I am a survivor both literally and artistically. I have had a good life and only wish to continue to pursue my artistic dreams... .

At the end of my life I would only wish that people will say, "He was an artist."

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