Arthur Russell

Charles Arthur Russell Jr. (May 21, 1951 – April 4, 1992) was an American cellist, composer, producer, singer, and musician from Iowa, whose work spanned a disparate range of styles. After studying contemporary composition and Indian classical music in California, Russell relocated to New York City in the mid-1970s, where he became involved with both Lower Manhattan’s avant-garde community and the city’s burgeoning disco scene. His eclectic music was often marked by adventurous production choices and his distinctive voice.Russell worked as musical director of the New York avant-garde venue the Kitchen in 1974 and 1975, but later embraced dance music, producing or co-producing several underground club hits under names such as Dinosaur L, Loose Joints, and Indian Ocean between 1978 and 1988. He co-founded the independent label Sleeping Bag Records with Will Socolov in 1981, and collaborated with a wide variety of artists, including musicians Peter Gordon, Peter Zummo, and Talking Heads, DJs such as Walter Gibbons, Nicky Siano, and Steve D’Aquisto; and poet Allen Ginsberg.The only full-length studio albums Russell issued under his name were the orchestral recording Tower of Meaning (1983) and vocal LP World of Echo (1986); he also released the disco LP 24→24 Music (1981) under his Dinosaur L alias. Over the last two decades of his life, he amassed a large collection of unreleased and unfinished recordings, in part due to his perfectionist working tendencies. He died from AIDS-related illnesses in 1992, still in relative obscurity and poverty.Russell’s profile rose in the 21st century owing to a series of musical releases (including collections of previously unreleased material) and biographical works. Several posthumous compilations of his music were released, including The World of Arthur Russell (2004) and Calling Out of Context (2004). The documentary Wild Combination: A Portrait of Arthur Russell was released in 2008.

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