Headquarters of the Devil: Sun Ra in Philadelphia

Sun Ra in Sun Ra at Morton Street by Valerie Sybil Wilmer Marshall Allen in the Morton St. House - unknown photographer

Headquarters of the Devil: Sun Ra in Philadelphia
Short form documentary to become PBS Hour Long

Musician-poet-philosopher, Sun Ra (born Herman Poole Blount), moved to 5626 Morton St. in the Germantown section of Northwest Philadelphia in the fall of 1968.  Though he and his Arkestra continued to travel the world playing gigs and giving lectures, the home on Morton St. where they lived, rehearsed, and composed was their headquarters until Sun Ra’s death in 1993.  In that time Sun Ra’s music and philosophy was informed by the world around him, particularly the city of Philadelphia which Ra called, "the worst place in America”.

In the 40s and 50s much of the North Philadelphia section of the city was racially integrated, but following a massive post-industrial economic decline white flight ensued leaving the remaining predominantly black residents with boarded up factories and abandoned row homes.  Following the Columbia Ave Riot of 1964, urban blight and racial tension permeated Philadelphia and had far reaching effects throughout the 70s, 80s, 90s and today.  

This documentary will examine the effect that Germantown had on Sun Ra’s life and work; and conversely the effect Sun Ra had on his adopted home, which he dubbed the "headquarters of the Devil”. Visually layered with images of Morton Street and its surroundings over time, the film will let Sun Ra’s music provide the texture to frame the intersection of his philosophy and the neighborhood. Footage from Sun Ra films and performances will be incorporated along with contemporary interviews. Subjects will include; past and current neighbors, members of the Arkestra and their relatives, academics, and others who can help unravel the story of a jazz musician from Saturn settling in a working-class neighborhood in Philadelphia.

Pat Ganley - Director
Michael Schweisheimer - Executive Producer


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