Eric Burdon was magnetically attracted to the desert in the late 60s, as many singers had been before him.
But he didn't stop when he got to the Palm Springs resort getaway of his predecessors, Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley.
He journeyed deeper, higher, to the mysterious terrain of the bizarre shaped rocks, the leaping cactus, the unidentified flying objects, and the twisting, dancing Joshua Trees.
In his album “My Secret Life” Eric wrote a song, “Hwy 62,” based on the ride from down below.
The first drive up the steep grade into Joshua Tree came with a warning. Eric had stopped in at a roadside bar when an old cowboy turn around, looked at him over his beer and said: “Where are you going, boy’?
"To the end of the road….” Eric replied.
“Be careful, the man will get you”! said the cowboy, nonchalantly, before turning his stare back to his beer glass.
"Late 60’s beginning of 70’s,I was living in Laurel Canyon but that wouldn’t stop me from visiting the desert whenever possible. In those days, being in or near L.A. was almost mandatory for the business. I would often ride my Harley to the desert to escape the city madness. When things got tough in LA and crime was rampant, I moved to the Desert. I could breathe there. On and off, I stayed in various parts of the desert. From the cosmopolitan Palm Springs, to Palm Desert, to as yet undeveloped, at the time, La Quinta, to deserted Whitewater. At the turn of the century, I returned to Joshua Tree, where I finally found this place I call home, in this magical landscape on the edge of the Mojave desert."
Eric's love for the place continues to grow and his connection to a burgeoning arts community deepens. In the battle for his affection, Joshua Tree won.
"I love the seasons here; the cactus flowers blooming in the springtime; the rarity of a desert snowfall in winter; the endless, warm summer nights and the countless stars in the sky..."
Before him, people like George Van Tassell, designer of the rejuvenation machine, the Integratron www.integratron.com, Noah Purifoy, assemblage artist www.noahpurifoy.com, who has involved in the LA Watts Towers project; as well as L.A. Free Press founder Art Kunkin en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Art_Kunkin, found peace in this otherworldly part of the earth, The Desert.
Joshua Tree became the attraction of many artistic people. Spiritual seekers, movie stars, rock climbers, rock and rollers, have all found peace and inspiration in the desert.
An attraction to tourists from all over the world, Joshua Tree National Park www.jtnp75.org, is celebrating its 75th anniversary!
An ongoing campaign for the Joshua Tree National Park will include a variety of different events including a limited edition guitar raffle. Fender Guitars design two Joshua Tree National Park 75th Anniversary 2011 Fender® American Telecaster® guitars with custom graphics. “I was privileged enough to get my hands on one and pose for some photos".
Eric Burdon @ Joshua Tree National Park Photo © Marianna Proestou
The National Park is not the only birthday that was celebrated in style this year. After making a special appearance on a local music radio show, hosted by Ted Quinn,http://itunes.apple.com/podcast/z107.7-fm-local-music-showcase/id39... (5/8/11) Eric celebrated his 70th birthday on May 11 at Rim Rock Ranch www.rimrockranchcabins.com, the bed and breakfast favoured by visitors such as Sean Lennon and Charlotte Muhl, a short drive from the abandoned cowboy set, Pioneertown. Roots rockers, Big Blue Tractor kept the party dancing as local musicians, such as Chris Goss (Masters of Reality) Tim Easton and Victoria Williams, joined the revelry.
Eric, with the help of old and new band mates, Dean Restun, Martin Gerschwitz, Terry Wilson, Wally Ingram and Bernie Pershey, commanded the crowd with an impromptu "Spill the Wine" and "Boom Boom Boom.”
The musical party in and around Joshua Tree is ongoing. Another birthday celebration, for Queen’s keyboard player, Spike Edney, started at Pioneertown's legendary Pappy and Harriet's www.pappyandharriets.com and continued at The Aerie www.artyzen.net/aerie , where Eric met up with old friends, including Patti Boyd and his ex guitar player, Jamie Moses.
"The connection with old mates is non stop when you have such a large array of talent passing through this crossroads of musical adventurers".
Eric's longtime friend and fellow British rock singer, Terry Reid www.ronniescotts.co.uk, is on the road promoting his new album recorded "Live at Ronnie Scotts" in London. Recently, Terry filled Pappy and Harriet’s with the royalty of the desert music scene. “ It was nice to meet and hang out with Josh Homme, and my ultimate favoured movie star, Helen Mirren. I have been a fan of hers since her first appearance in the Long Good Friday, and it was a thrill to give my favorite screen gem a warm hug”.
Eric Burdon & Josh Homme (Queens of the Stone Age) Photo © Marianna Proestou
Eric Burdon & Helen Mirren Photo © Marianna Proestou
Also enjoying Terry Reid's performance, David Catching (Eagles of Death Metal) invited Burdon to do some tracking at his home studio, Rancho de la Luna www.ranchodelaluna.com, where Homme's QOTSA are working on a new project. Other artists such as Bobby Furst www.bobbyfurst.com, a long time host to the Hwy 62 Art Tours www.hwy62arttours.com party and many other cool events, attended the event, along with photographer/painter Diane Best www.dianebest.net, ambient guitar master Clive Wright www.reverbnation.com/clivewright and percussionist extraordinaire, Wally Ingram www.wallyingram.com.
Terry Reid, Bobby Furst, Eric Burdon Photo © Marianna Proestou
Wally Ingram, Eric Burdon, Terry Reid Photo © Marianna Proestou
But the talent doesn’t stay locally in Joshua Tree. It travels abroad. "You never know whom you will bump into when playing into big festivals in Europe. I was ready to go on stage in Herzberg, Germany when I bumped into neighbours Robbi Robb and his wife Amritakripa Watts. They performed at the same festival with the band Tribe After Tribe" www.tribeaftertribe.com.
Robbi and Kripa joined forces with singer/ songwriter Teddy Quinn to form a band, Rock Art of Joshua Tree www.facebook.com/rockart11. Their psychedelic new release, "Sunburst Golden Border," can be downloaded @ www.cdbaby.com/cd/rockart.
"While on the road, listening to music created by my desert friends is a nice reminder of home and a need to go back… back for the peace, as well as for the good fight. There are lots of things to fight for in Joshua Tree and lots of worthy causes to get behind. Far from retiring from the world, this community is filled with wonderfully active people, working to make a difference. I love our little community; I can go to places and not be hassled by autograph hunters but instead have nice conversations with like minded people over a cup of tea”.
In the past, Eric has donated his time and used his powerful voice to raise money to stop a proposed waste disposal facility adjacent to the National Park. The ongoing battle has lasted for over a decade and jojoba farmers, Larry and Donna Charpeid, are still fighting it. www.laronnajojoba.com
“The Charpeids are wonderful people, and they do fight hard for a clean desert. I don’t get it why LA should dump their garbage in our back yard. It pisses me off to experience the mentality that we 're second rate because we live in the desert. People always see the desert as a waste land. This has to stop. I have news for you. Living in the desert is a choice! I have watched the evolution of the dusty town of Joshua Tree over the years, from a home to outlaws, meth labs and buried bodies, to a thriving art centre, and I do have high hopes for the new generation. Kids are our present, not to mention, our future. I want to see them enjoying a brighter tomorrow. I am really close friends with Wally Ingram and his family. They have a charismatic 6 year old daughter and when it came to the point of choosing the right school for her, I watched them going through a huge battle. LA versus the Desert. They moved from LA to Joshua Tree to be a part of the Livingschool*, a home school co~op started by new parents in the arts community including Barnett English** and Ted Quinn***. There you have one small group of children being taught peaceful resolution, yoga, ecology and art."
On December 17, Eric Burdon will drive the singing Livingschool kids through oldtown Yucca Valley, in his 1958 Ford Ranchero for the annual festival of lights parade. This year’s theme, appropriately enough: Animals of the Hi Desert. www.yuccavalley.org/41.html
Please join Eric and his “Animals” for a rare appearance in the Hi Desert and take the time to experience this most welcoming atmosphere. Take a stroll around the village and visit numerous art galleries, shop locally in Yucca Valley at Route 62 http://www.studio62artgallery.com/ or in Joshua Tree at Ethan’s place, Coyote Corner www.joshuatreevillage.com/546/546.htm, Ricochet Vintage Wears,http://www.facebook.com/pages/Ricochet-Vintage-Wears/323851380017
Dine at Ricochet Gourmet www.ricochetjoshuatree.com; Pie for the People, www.pieforthepeople.net, a New York style pizzeria, or the Indian food at Sam's www.samsmarketjt.com.
Some great places to stay in the area are the Rimrock Ranch www.rimrockranchcabins.com, The Aerie www.artyzen.net/aerie, The Sacred Sands Bed and Breakfast http://www.sacredsands.com/ , Tumbleweed www.vrbo.com/170086 , the Desert Lily Bed and Breakfast www.thedesertlily.com, Spin & Margie's www.deserthideaway.com, the legendary Joshua Tree Inn or 29 Palms Inn, to name a few. Or you can even stay in Eric’s little red cabin, at the entrance to Joshua Tree National Park.
In the New Year, on Saturday, January 28th you can join Eric as he shares some Desert Stories at the annual literary event at Hi Desert Cultural Center.www.hidesertculturalcenter.com
** Barnett English is the Founder of Transmission www.transmissionjoshuatree.com a 'creative empowerment' program run from the Red Arrow Gallery www.theredarrowgallery.com, also founder of the twice annual Joshua Tree Music Festival. www.joshuatreemusicfestival.com.
***Ted Quinn www.tedquinn.com (Rock Art, Hwy 62 Art Tours.)