Bobby BeauSoleil is an American musician and multi-disciplined artist who has produced a wide-ranging body of original recorded music, sound design and visual art, most of it over the past five decades while doing time behind bars for a murder he committed in his youth. Publishing artistic works at a level unprecedented for a prisoner of the state, these pursuits became the path BeauSoleil chose in seeking redemption for the crime he committed in 1969, at the age of 21 — a crime he has long characterized as having been motivated by petty and cowardly objectives. Distinguishing himself with dedication and perseverance in creative endeavor, BeauSoleil has largely transcended his past failings and imprisonment.
Read essay "Manifesto of an Artist in Prison"
Born on November 6, 1947, Bobby BeauSoleil is a musican, composer, sound designer, and multi-disciplined visual artist. For over fifty years he has been serving a life sentence in California state prison for a murder he committed at the age of 21 years old. The largest percentage of creative work he has done was produced during his long incarceration.
BeauSoleil began playing guitar as a child, and aspired to become a professional musician. He was active in the west coast music scene in the mid- to late-1960s. He landed his first professional gig as a musician in 1965 when, at the age of 17, he was accepted as the rhythm guitarist for a West Los Angeles band called The Grass Roots, fronted by irascible singer-songwriter Arthur Lee. BeauSoleil's stint with the band (which would subsequently become known as Love) was short-lived. He left Los Angeles to pursue his aspirations in the fledgling counter-culture music scene in San Francisco.
Almost immediately upon his arrival, BeauSoleil joined a rock band called The Outfit, who had just begun gigging regularly. His role in the band was lead guitarist. It was during this time that a top hat became a signature trademark of his professional persona. In the months following BeauSoleil became disenchanted with the band, and in the standard rock band format cloning that was all too prevalent in San Francisco at that time.
His listening habits had been broadening, and he discovered that he had leanings toward a more adventurous approach to making music. He decided that he needed to form his own band.
The Electric Chamber Orchestra made its debut at a bay area coffee house some months later. The musicians in the band played an unusual assortment of musical instruments, electrified with pickups and amplifiers. The style of music was an avant-garde blending of rock, world music and free jazz influences. The band members decided that the band name was too cumbersome and limiting and agreed to change it to The Orkustra. The band performed at underground psychedelic venues all over the San Francisco bay area, as well as concert halls and college auditoriums, gigging regularly through the Summer of Love.
At an underground event called The Invisible Circus, following a rousing performance by The Orkustra, BeauSoleil met independent filmmaker Kenneth Anger. In the weeks following. Anger asked BeauSoleil if he would be willing to play the starring role in his current film project, Lucifer Rising. After giving the proposition a little thought, BeauSoleil agreed to take on the acting role on the condition that he, BeauSoleil, would compose and perform the soundtrack. The filmmaker agreed, and a bargain was struck.
Solely for the purpose of performing on the soundtrack recordings, BeauSoleil formed a new band, The Magick Powerhouse of Oz. The band comprised a few members of the The Orkustra and a misfit assortment of area street musicians. Only a single recording of the band was made, now entitled Lucifer Rising 1967. It can be heard on this channel. BeauSoleil’s collaboration with filmmaker Kenneth Anger disintegrated after the Summer of Love came to a close before the project could be completed.
This occurred simultaneously with the collapse of the Haight-Ashbury hippie scene as the wholesome community it had once been into a den of drug addiction and criminal predation. In 1968 BeauSoleil returned to Los Angeles, where he occasionally worked as a musician for hire until his arrest for the crime he continues to serve time for committing.
After some brushes with violence at San Quentin prison in the early 1970s, BeauSoleil made a firm personal commitment to foreswear all violence in favor of devoting the rest of his life to personal creative expression in the arts, and to do all he could to promote the arts in any prison where he was housed.
Meanwhile, Kenneth Anger had moved to the U.K., where he found new funding to resume work on the Lucifer Rising film project. He had slated Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page to compose and perform the soundtrack for the film but was unsatisfied with Page's demo tape of the music he had created for the film. Once again, Anger turned to BeauSoleil, who had assembled a music program at his current prison residence, and was leading a band called The Freedom Orchestra. BeauSoleil delivered the finished soundtrack recording to Anger in 1979.
A video of BeauSoleil performing a large portion of the music score for the soundtrack with The Freedom Orchestra in front of a live prisoner audience can be viewed on the website Movie Channel. The soundtrack album was released on vinyl LP on 1980, the same year the film premiered in New York. Over the decades since its initial release the film soundtrack has become legendary in multiple continents.
With the exception of the recordings made of The Orkustra and Magick Powerhouse of Oz performances, all of the music recordings on BeauSoleil's nine albums were self-produced while he has been in prison. In addition, BeauSoleil has created a significant body of work in the visual arts. Many of his paintings are used as front pieces for individual song recordings on the Movie Channel.
In the mid-1990s BeauSoleil was transferred to the Oregon prison system, where he was hired by prison authorities to serve as the multimedia specialist for the Oregon Department of Corrections. He served in that position for two decades. During this period he produced numerous high-quality videos for staff and inmate training, education, self-help programs, youth outreach, and some documentary films. On the side, he produced some animated films. Some examples can be found on this channel.
THE ORKUSTRA: Experiments in Electric Orchestra from the San Francisco Psychedelic Underground
Lucifer Rising (original film soundtrack)
Lucifer Rising Suite (soundtrack and project recordings anthology)
Running With The White Wolf
Dancing Hearts Afire
ed. publicist, 2021