Robert Crumb, the graphic artist who is considered by many to be the godfather of the American underground comics scene, recently conceded an interview with New Orleans Public Radio. Although he has been the subject of many cultural research projects and even major films, Crumb tends to be a reclusive figure who shuns the spotlight. His interview for the radio program American Routes and Shortcuts is one of the few he has given in recent years.
The work of R. Crumb has graced many album covers of leading rock bands that spearheaded the counterculture movement of the 1960s. He created one of the most widely recognized album covers of all times: Cheap Thrills by Big Brother and the Holding Company. He also drew artwork by the Grateful Dead and was the in-house graphic artist for labels such as Yazoo and Blue Goose Records.
Crumb’s most recent interview focuses on his love for music that played from the 1920s to the 1950s in the United States. He recalled a time when his father used to listen to polka on the radio and he would sway to the music. Crumb would later find mainstream American music disappointing; he would seek older compositions that may have inspired American jazz and started collecting old records. His passion for musical gems of a bygone era is mostly evident by his 2006 illustrated book R. Crumb’s Heroes of Blues, Jazz & Country, which also features a compact disc for young people who may be interested in discovering this music. In the 1980s, Crumb published a set of trading cards that featured many of his musical heroes.
Artists who labor in the underground tend to be fond of Crumb’s work. Rapper Aesop Rock from Portland has made various mentions to R. Crumb in his lyrics.
Crumb often spends time in home located in southern France, where he keeps his massive record collection. It is very likely that his future estate will be cataloged and curated due to its importance. Crumb’s love for American music from ragtime to blues and bluegrass to jazz may one day become as important as his work as a cartoonist.