Tuli Kupferberg obituary
As part of that anti-war strategy, Kupferberg combined Beat writing sensibilities, folk whimsy and electric rock'n'roll in the Fugs, the band that he formed in 1964 with fellow activist Ed Sanders. The group took their name from the toned-down expletive that Norman Mailer had been forced to adopt in his 1948 novel The Naked and the Dead to sidestep the true language of the Pacific front.
Born in New York and later a student at the city's Brooklyn College, Kupferberg got a job as a medical librarian, but submitted poetry and prose to publications including the Village Voice. He would go on to create poetry magazines of his own and one of them, Birth, founded in 1958, provided a home to work by numerous Beat writers of reputation – Diane DiPrima and Allen Ginsberg included. By then, Kupferberg had already been mythologised as part of the bohemian Greenwich Village community. He was the celebrated character, mentioned in Ginsberg's long poem of 1956, Howl, who "jumped off the Brooklyn Bridge this actually happened and walked away unknown and forgotten".
At a time when youth appeared to be ascribed a value above any material commodity, Kupferberg, who was already into his 40s, crept under the demographic radar to become a part of that frenetic scene which took on the establishment and its increasingly discredited politics. The Fugs provided a musical soundtrack to the forces of resistance as activists such as the Students for a Democratic Society took first to the soapbox, and then to the barricades, to be joined, in time, by more radical organisations such as the Yippies and the Black Panthers.
The band drew on satire and lampoon to ridicule their adversaries, in songs such as Kill for Peace, Supergirl and Slum Goddess, often using language that drew controversy and censorship. But the band also paid tribute to their mystic hero William Blake in Ah, Sunflower, Weary of Time on their 1965 debut LP, The Village Fugs Sing Ballads of Contemporary Protest, Points of View, and General Dissatisfaction.
Kupferberg remained a poet, too, and his collaboration with Robert Bashlow, 1001 Ways to Beat the Draft, became his most famous work. It was a literal, if absurd, listing of actions that might save you from conscription to the army. "Say you're crazy", "Marry your mother" and "Get elected the Supreme Soviet" were among the titbits of advice.
The Fugs were at the height of their powers in the later 1960s and released several albums, but faded from view, only to reform in 1985 with Kupferberg and Sanders still at the helm. Joined by Steven Taylor, Ginsberg's guitarist, among others, the band continued to make political capital that mixed caustic wit and street wisdom.
In recent years, Kupferberg's health faltered and his activity with the band declined, yet he continued to experiment with words, posting his punning aphorisms – he dubbed them "perverbs" – online. A stroke in 2009 left him blind; a second, more recently, accelerated the end.
He is survived by his wife, Sylvia Topp, his sons, Joe and Noah, and a daughter, Samara.
• Naphtali "Tuli" Kupferberg, poet and songwriter, born 28 September 1923; died 12 July 2010
The whole Fugs set can be found on Vimeo with better audio and video quality here: