Sunday, May 25, 2008

U. Utah Phillips, 1935-2008

Longtime folksinger and storyteller U. Utah Phillips, dead at the age of 73. To be honest, I am not familiar with Mr. Phillips' work, but I used to see the ads for his appearances in the Chicago Reader every time he came through town, and would always be impressed by that name. It's a corker, isn't it? Just calling himself "Utah" would have been cool enough, but the "U." is a bravura touch. Ugueth Urbina would be proud.

Utah was born Bruce Duncan Phillips in Cleveland, of all places. I like to think his name helped spark the idea for the greatest name in all of movie history - I speak here, of course, of Keanu Reeves' FBI agent in the 1991 film Point Break, who went by the handle of "Johnny Utah."

1 comment:

Joe said...

U. Utah Phillips was as much a spoken-word artist as a folksinger or activist. I saw him twice at folk festivals in the early '80s, and it's strange to think he would have been in his 40s then, since he was already working an old-man persona. His spiels were mesmerizing -- long-winded things that rolled on and on, reminiscent of Whitman or Ginsberg in their endless unfolding, their ear-tickling cadences, their deployment of gentle bawdiness and the way they made craft seem spontaneous. He was shit-hot funny, too.