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Josh Alan Friedman

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Josh Alan Friedman

Josh Alan Friedman
Josh Alan Friedman
Born Josh Alan Friedman
(1956-02-22)February 22, 1956
New York, U.S.
Occupation musician, writer
Nationality American
Period 1976–present

Josh Alan Friedman (born February 22, 1956) is an American musician, writer, editor and journalist. Widely known for his 1986 collection Tales of Times Square and his often-controversial comix collaborations with his brother, artist Drew Friedman, many of which are compiled in the books Any Similarity to Persons Living or Dead is Purely Coincidental and Warts and All. Friedman is also a successful musician and songwriter, recording and performing under the moniker "Josh Alan."[1]

Biography

Son of author-playwright Bruce Jay Friedman and acting coach Ginger Howard Friedman, Josh Alan grew up in Glen Cove, Long Island, Great Neck and New York City, the eldest of three boys. In 1962, Josh began first grade at South School, then the last segregated school on Long Island. He was the sole white student. His years attending South School at the flashpoint of the African-American Civil Rights Movement, the childhood friendships forged there and his occasionally life-threatening adventures in Long Island's forgotten Black shantytowns subsequently formed the basis of his "autobiographical novel" Black Cracker. (An early version of Black Cracker appeared in Penthouse in August, 1978.)

Friedman has defined his creative identity as "51% guitar and 49% writing."[2]

Music career

"The guitar has always been the most important thing in the world to me," Friedman told the Dallas Times Herald in 1991. "It's a little bit more important than the writing because I've been doing it longer. The writing seemed like a sidetrack or something when I wasn't able to get my [expletive] together."[3]

Though Friedman began playing guitar at 9, a pitching injury at 14 cost Friedman the use of his right arm for two years. "I figured if I ever had the honor of being able to play again, no one's going to pull me away from it."[3] His time as a student with journeyman jazz guitarist Joe Monk in particular left a deep impression on the young musician.[4]

Friedman spent his last five years in New York working as a guitarist with the busy show band City Limits, featuring Richard Lanham, former vocalist for The Drifters.

Following his move to Dallas in 1987, Friedman began recording and performing as a solo artist in earnest. He also recorded and performed extensively with Sara Hickman, and produced Dallas’ KERA 90.1 Sound Sessions. Billed as “Josh Alan” he barnstormed the state of Texas for 20 years, rocking whole arenas with his Guild D-40 and earning three Dallas Observer Music Awards for Best Acoustic Act. He was noted for his live use of acoustic feedback, the Maestro Echoplex and surf instrumentals, as well as an acoustic medley of Black exploitation movie soundtracks. He has released four albums: Famous & Poor, The Worst! (a musical based on the life and career of "Worst Director of All Time" Ed Wood), Blacks 'n' Jews (the title of which became a documentary on Josh’s life) and Josh Alan Band.

Josh Alan has recorded and/or played with Sara Hickman, Keb' Mo', Kinky Friedman, Bugs Henderson, Phoebe Legere, and was a perennial opener in Texas for dozens of rock and blues acts, including Johnny Winter, Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown, War, Huey Lewis and the News, Bad Company, Mitch Ryder, Michael Nesmith and Wanda Jackson.

Writing career


Friedman’s first published work was for Screw magazine. He continued to write for the magazine for several years, eventually holding the position of Senior Editor through 1982. He covered the Times Square beat for Screw during a perilous time when few, if any writers, ventured there. He also worked as a producer on Screw's cable television show, Midnight Blue. Several of Friedman’s Screw pieces would eventually serve as the foundation for his 1986 collection, Tales of Times Square, documenting "pre-Disney" Times Square. By the late 70s, Josh's brother, artist Drew Friedman, was drawing covers for Screw, some conceptualized with Josh.[5] Additionally, "Meeting Groucho," Friedman's childhood reminiscence of a memorable dinner with comedian Groucho Marx, was published in New York Magazine as "A Memory of Groucho" in August, 1978.[6]

Concurrently, Josh worked as a stringer for Soho News, contributing celebrity profiles, notably of legendary songwriter Doc Pomus.[7] Pomus became a friend and mentor, and Friedman credits Pomus with teaching him to be a songwriter “without him knowing it. Just by hanging around him, I felt like he taught me how to write songs…that’s what turned me from being a frustrated songwriter into a songwriter.”[3]

During this period, Josh's comix collaborations with brother Drew were gaining momentum. Beginning with a notorious parody of The Andy Griffith Show first published in School of Visual Arts instructor Harvey Kurtzman's student publication Kar-tunz' (later reprinted in RAW magazine), the Friedmans developed an enthusiastic following for their bizarro parodies and dissections of forgotten B-list entertainers and obscure pop culture figures. With their acidic, occasionally fantastical biographies of second- and third-tier celebrities such as talk show host Joe Franklin ("The Joe Franklin Story," High Times, June 1981), Wayne Newton ("The Living History of Wayne Newton," High Times, September 1983), Frank Sinatra, Jr. ("The Saga of Frank Sinatra, Jr.," National Lampoon, October 1985) and Joey Heatherton ("I, Joey Heatherton," National Lampoon, December 1989), the Friedman Bros. became the most-feared names in satirical cartooning. Their comics had a discernible influence on SCTV.

Much of their work as a team was collected in the books Any Similarity to Persons Living or Dead is Purely Coincidental, published in 1985, and Warts and All, published in 1990. Warts and All included an effusive introduction by Kurt Vonnegut, and the book won a comics industry Harvey Award in 1991.[8]

Friedman served as Managing Editor of High Times magazine in 1983, and as Contributing Editor to National Lampoon in the 1980s.

In 2001, Josh co-edited Now Dig This: The Unspeakable Writings of Terry Southern in collaboration with Nile Southern.

In 2005, Feral House published When Sex Was Dirty.

In 2006, I, Goldstein: My Screwed Life (with Al Goldstein) was released by Thunder's Mouth Press.

In 2007, Feral House reissued Tales of Times Square in an expanded edition.

In 2008, Tell the Truth Until They Bleed: Coming Clean in the Dirty World of Blues and Rock 'n' Roll was published by Backbeat Books.

The book's opening section, a profile of songwriter Jerry Leiber, evolved from an ill-fated collaboration between Friedman and Leiber on Leiber's autobiography. Friedman later eulogized Leiber in "Kiss My Big Black Ass: Jerry Leiber's Life in Spades" on his website.[9] A slightly abbreviated version appeared in the Dallas Observer.[10]

In 2009, Friedman launched Black Cracker Online, a website and online archive. Reprints, photographs, video, unpublished material and new work are posted weekly.[11]

In 2010, Black Cracker was published by Wyatt Doyle Books.

In 2012, Fantagraphics Books reprinted Any Similarity to Persons Living or Dead is Purely Coincidental, including new material from both Friedmans unique to that edition.[12]

Also in 2012, New Texture announced the anthology Weasels Ripped My Flesh! Friedman is a contributor and co-editor, in collaboration with Robert Deis and Wyatt Doyle.[13]

Personal life

Friedman lives in Dallas with his wife, graphic designer Peggy Bennett of Bennett.Elia, and their daughter Chloe.

Selected bibliography

Non-fiction

  • Tell the Truth Until They Bleed. New York: Backbeat Books/Hal Leonard, 2008.
  • I, Goldstein (with Al Goldstein). New York: Thunder's Mouth Press, 2006.
  • When Sex Was Dirty. Los Angeles: Feral House, 2005.
  • Tales of Times Square. New York: Delacorte Press, 1986.

Fiction

  • Weasels Ripped My Flesh! (co-editor with Robert Deis and Wyatt Doyle). Los Angeles: New Texture, 2012.
  • Black Cracker: An Autobiographical Novel. Los Angeles: Wyatt Doyle Books/New Texture, 2010.
  • Now Dig This: The Unspeakable Writings of Terry Southern (co-editor with Nile Southern). New York: Grove Press, 2001.
  • Warts and All (with Drew Friedman). New York: Penguin, 1990.
  • Any Similarity to Persons Living Or Dead Is Purely Coincidental (with Drew Friedman). Agoura, CA: Fantagraphics, 1985.

Discography

Albums

Year Album US Label
1991 Famous & Poor Four Dots
1994 The Worst! Black Cracker
1997 Blacks 'n' Jews Black Cracker
2001 Josh Alan Band TopCat

Singles

Year Single US Label
1988 "Thanksgiving at McDonald's in Times Square" Alternative Music

Filmography

Paul Stone's unfinished adaptation of Tales of Times Square[14] and Kevin Page's documentary on Josh Alan's life, Blacks and Jews,[15] have enjoyed wide acclaim at film festivals.[16]

References

External links

  • [1] Black Cracker Online, Josh Alan Friedman's official website

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