[Photo in Tompkins Square Park in 2010 by Shirley Dluginski]
Musician David Peel, a longtime East Village resident and fixture at marches and demonstrations the past five decades, died today. He was 73.
Last Friday, Peel suffered a massive heart attack and was in critical condition at the VA Hospital. He was expected to have bypass surgery this week.
He is best known for his seminal counter-culture albums, such as 1968's "Have a Marijuana" on Elektra Records, with his band the Lower East Side.
His 1972 record "The Pope Smokes Dope" on Apple was produced by John Lennon and Yoko Ono.
He was born David Rosario on Aug. 1, 1943 in Brooklyn. He served for several years in the Army.
According to an obituary at Celebstoner:
With the '60s countercultural revolution beginning to take shape, Peel moved to San Francisco, where he dove into the new hippie scene. When Peel came back to New York, he picked up a guitar and started writing songs and leading singalongs in Washington Square Park.
Peel took the name because he was prone to smoking banana peels. "It looked like grass," he told High Times in 1977. "We kept it in vials and called it banana grass."
One day in 1968, Elektra Records A&R rep Danny Fields heard Peel and his gang of protestors singing in the park. In the 2015 documentary, "Danny Says," Peel recalled:
"I met Danny Fields in 1968, He brought me to Max's Kansas City and bought me a steak dinner. How could I say no to a steak dinner when I was used to eating pizza all my life on the street?"
Fields signed David Peel & the Lower East Side to a two-record contract.
An April 2012 feature in The New York Times noted how a new generation had discovered Peel.
He was a regular last fall at the Occupy Wall Street movement’s Zuccotti Park encampment, and now shows up in Union Square to jam with the Occupy protesters there.
Peel was also a regular during the summer concerts in Tompkins Square Park. He lived on Avenue B. He was unmarried and didn't have any known family members.
His friend Steve Bloom wrote for Celebstoner:
Wherever Peel was, with his loud voice and boisterous personality, you couldn't miss him ... Peel, who answered the phone, "Yo, yo, yo" and had a characteristic stutter, will be missed.
The Times article from 2012 noted that "he planned to continue to sing on the streets and in the parks downtown 'until the day I drop dead and go to rock ’n’ roll heaven.'"
Updated: Billboard published an obituary here.
Thank you David Peel. You made a difference to this Big Apple teenager.— Jody Denberg (@JodyDenberg) April 6, 2017
I was proud to be a New York City Hippie!https://t.co/9Ya2ooR2Sl
A part of my childhood is gone. RIP #davidpeel— EdenBrower (@edenbrower) April 6, 2017