In a smoky November studio session, beat poet and Gay rights activist Allen Ginsberg was sat alongside the enigmatic Bob Dylan to record three songs which would go on to form part of the former’s album release Allen Ginsberg’s First Blues, with the album scheduled for a release on Beatles’ label Apple Records. The songs would inflame a movement of Gay Liberation.
The band in session included Ginsberg’s lover Peter Orlovsky, Greenwich Village folkies Happy and Artie Traum, composer David Amram, and guitarist Jon Sholle. Led, of course, by the freewheelin’ Bob Dylan as he held court with his guitar, piano, and organ in hand.
The most famous of these songs credited to the poet and Dylan was ‘Vomit Express’ but the real touchpaper to the flame was the song ‘Jimmy Berman (Gay Lib Rag)’. Co-written by the pair the song, which had lyrics improvised by Ginsberg as the pair recorded,
Ginsberg was determined to engage with a society in a language and cadence they’d understand. He wanted to attack the heteronormative masculinity of those jocks and macho-men wanting to ‘sow their seed’ by subversing the target of their affection.
Read the lyrics below and listen to the song below that.
“Who’s that Jimmy Berman? I heard you drop his name
What has he got to say? What papers is he sellin’?
I don’t know if he’s the guy I met or ain’t the same
Well, that Jimmy Berman was a boy that is worth tellin’
Jimmy Berman on the corner sold the New York Times
Jimmy Berman in New York he had a long, long climb
Started as a shoeshine boy, ended on Times Square
Jimmy Berman, what’s that rose you got settin’ in your hair?
Jimmy Berman what’s your sex, why you hang ‘round here all day?
Jimmy Berman what’s up next, oh what do you play?
Who you wanna sleep with night, Jimmy boy? Would you like come with me?
Jimmy Berman, O my love, O what misery
Jimmy Berman, do you feel the same as what I do?
Jimmy Berman, won’t you come home and make love with me too?
Jimmy Berman, I’ll take my clothes off, lay me down in bed
Jimmy Berman, drop your pants, I’ll give you some good head
Eighteen-year-old Jimmy, the boy is my delight
Eighteen-year-old Jimmy, I love him day and night
Now I know I’m getting kinda old to chase poor Jimmy’s tail
But I won’t tell you other, love, it’d be too long a tale
Jimmy Berman, please love me, I throw myself at your feet
Jimmy Berman, I’ll give you money, oh, won’t that be neat?
Jimmy Berman, just give me your heart and yeah! your soul
Jimmy Berman, please come home with me, I would be whole
Jimmy Berman on the street, waiting for his god
Jimmy Berman as I pass gives me a holy nod
Jimmy Berman he has watched and seen the strangers pass
Jimmy Berman he gave up, he wants no more, alas
Jimmy Berman does yoga, he smokes a little grass
Jimmy Berman’s back is straight, he knows what to bypass
Jimmy Berman don’t take junk, he don’t shoot speed in his eye
Jimmy Berman’s got a healthy mind and Jimmy Berman is ours
Jimmy Berman, Jimmy Berman, I will say goodbye
Jimmy Berman, Jimmy Berman, love you till I die
Jimmy Berman, Jimmy Berman, wave to me as well
Jimmy Berman, Jimmy Berman, please abolish Hell”