« previous post | next post »

Nancy Kathryn Walecki, "Sound as Ever: Gram Parsons and Harvard’s hand in country rock", Harvard Magazine July-August 2023:

During Parsons’s Burritos era, Thomas left Harvard to write his dissertation in a cabin on Mount Baldy outside Los Angeles. Now more of an older brother to Parsons than a proctor, he would take study breaks with him in town: “It was a whole different world from Heidegger and Wittgenstein.” Once, they met Janis Joplin in a nightclub parking lot. “This is my adviser from Harvard. He’s into phenomenology,” Gram said. “Wow,” replied Joplin. “I believe in ghosts, too.”




  1. Peter Grubtal said,

    June 25, 2023 @ 2:24 am

    Looking at Wikipedia on phenomenology, I'd say that Joplin's supposedly naif reaction was in fact very apposite.

  2. Olaf Zimmermann said,

    June 25, 2023 @ 8:21 am

    @Peter Grubtal:
    Mario Bunge once said of phenomenology "How could anyone think that this wild fantasy could shed any light on anything except the decadence of German philosophy?"
    Sadly phenomenology (i.e. indocta ignorantia, meaning unrecyclable rubbish) did manage to cross the Atlanic … in translation, no less (how silly can you get?), whence, via the gulf stream I suppose, it eventually made its way to the sceptered isle.

  3. Rodger C said,

    June 25, 2023 @ 9:45 am

    In the Seventies I knew an Episcopal priest who used "phenomenology" in the Janis Joplin sense. It seems to be a thing out there.

  4. MattF said,

    June 25, 2023 @ 10:06 am

    I saw some YouTube reaction videos yesterday by young people who had never heard Janis Joplin before. They were impressed.

  5. Daniel Deutsch said,

    June 25, 2023 @ 11:08 am

    To the scoffers above, I can understand that is how it appears to you.

  6. J.W. Brewer said,

    June 25, 2023 @ 1:34 pm

    Not a point about phenomenology, but I had recently seen Thomas' name somewhere or other (not w/ Joplin in the same paragraph), and after a bit of googling I figured out that it had been in this excerpt from Chris Hillman's autobiography:

    "I don’t think Gram had many real friends. In fact, I believe there were only three people who really knew, loved, and understood Gram Parsons: me, Emmylou Harris, and Rev. Jet Thomas, who was his student advisor at Harvard during Gram’s brief time there. In the end, none of us could save him.”

    In Feb. 2020, shortly before the pandemic shut down live music in NYC, I was at a lightly-attended show by an ensemble that included Ernie Brooks H '71, who is also mentioned in the linked piece, on bass. The point of semi-linguistic interest is that the bandleader (the avant-garde guitarist and onetime Beefheart sideman Gary Lucas) kept referring to Ernie as "Ernest Brooks III," which seemed overly formal and thus oddly incongruent in register for the context of the discourse. I don't know if it was a "make fun of the guy who went to Harvard" thing, or motivated by something else.

  7. Benjamin Orsatti said,

    June 26, 2023 @ 8:10 am

    Mr. Deutsch,

    Spoken like a true phenomenologist! But I don't understand the objection to it. Since when did philosophy become a "hard science" anyway?

  8. Rodger C said,

    June 26, 2023 @ 9:35 am

    I certainly wasn't scoffing–I still own my Heidegger and remember my Husserl–just pointing out that there are at least two data points for "phenomenology" meaning something like "psychic phenomena" among people born slightly before me.

RSS feed for comments on this post