It would be nice to know that Sun Ra rests comfortably under the ground in North Philly, or wherever it is he’s buried. After all, on one steamed summer of ‘89 day in Lexington, Virginia, this definitive grand old man fixed my car, healed the crotchety engine of my 1981 Plymouth Champ. By merely pushing the Champ to within a few hundred yards of Coach Ra’s charge, I avoided further inconveniences on a disastrous road trip that already included another speeding ticket and about four miles of exhaustive car pushing.
I had little knowledge of Ra before I ventured from Charlottesville to the Lime Kiln Arts Center in Lexington. I had listened to lofty recommendations from jazz junkies at WTJU and broke the code of a glowing review from the jazz editor in Forced Exposure. But I am afraid I cannot think of the best adjectives to describe the performance Ra and the group of musicians and acrobats, known as the “Arkestra,” stunned a few hundred people with. They reminded me of a scared, nervous twitch that I experienced at a Psychodrama performance when I was sixteen and a Butthole Surfers Locust Abortion Technician show from 1987.
I never saw Sun Ra and His Arkestra a second time because my expectations would have been too high. They had reached out to a sick car parked a few hundred yards away and swirled things back to health. They soothed my vapor lock problem and I was too blown away to thank them for it. Now, I can only hope Sun Ra sleeps peacefully.