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a crack in your ear through which sound surreptitiously slips, or an illicit substance which gives your ears immense pleasure while enslaving them to a crippling addiction

Friday, November 04, 2005

paul pena

I’ve just become aware that Paul Pena passed away last month, on October 1st. As I type this blog post, WNYC is playing his recording of “Jet Airliner”, a song he wrote that was made famous by the Steve Miller Band. (His version is much better, in my opinion)

I interviewed Pena at his home in San Francisco in 2003. He was blind, and it was fascinating to see the inside of his apartment, because of course nothing was there for looks. He was in very poor health when I saw him. If you hear earlier tape of him speaking, it’s clear how sick he was when we talked. He struck me as a very talented and soulful performer, who never quite attained the success that his talents might have allowed. But he did enjoy some renewed attention near the end of his life, mostly due to the 1999 video documentary Genghis Blues.

Here is the piece I produced. In it, Pena tells the story of how he discovered Tuvan throat singing, and divulges his secret for attaining the perfect Kargyraa Moan (it's hands down my favorite interview memory EVER).

Here is the announcement from his website.

We're sad to report that Paul passed away Saturday October 1, 2005 in the early evening at his apartment in San Francisco. He'd been through a long battle with Pancreatitis and Diabetes. This is a huge loss for all of us.

During the the past 8 years, Paul's health has been on the decline and his quality of life was greatly diminished by the nearly constant state of pain that he was in. We can take comfort in knowing that he's no longer suffering.

October 2, 2005
San Francisco


Blogger Paul said...

I'd like to hear that piece, but the link seems to be broken.

9:29 AM

Blogger Jonathan Mitchell said...


i'm still trying to figure out the problem. i'll have it fixed as soon as possible.

thanks for letting me know!


10:10 AM

Blogger Paul said...

No problem. I saw the documentary last year and was really moved. Looking forward to hearing your piece.

3:07 PM

Blogger Paul said...

Hi Jonathan,

Just FYI the problem is that the link to the audio is preceded by some junk from your blog site. I'm not sure why it is happening.

Loved the piece, btw. And thanks for the site.


3:24 PM


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