Born Charles Arthur Russell in 1952 and raised in Oskaloosa, Iowa, where he later studied the cello and began to write his own music. In the early 1970s, he moved to California and studied Indian music at the Ali Akbar Khan School in San Francisco. He met Allen Ginsberg, with whom he began to work, accompanying him on the cello while Allen sang or read his poetry.
In the mid 1970s, Arthur Russell moved to New York. (...) He contributed to The Flying Hearts in studio work and, occasionally, in performance with David Byrne, Rhys Chatham, Jon Gibson, Peter Gordon, Jerry Harrison, Garret List, Andy Paley, Leni Pickett and Peter Zummo. From 1975 to 1979 this ensemble, together with Glenn Iamaro, Bill Ruyle and Jon Sholle, performed and recorded the orchestral composition of Instrumentals (Disques du Crépuscule, 1984, Belgium).
In 1979, Arthur wrote and produced "Kiss Me Again", under the name Dinosaur. It was the first disco single to be released by Sire Records, and the first of many of Arthur's' innovative dance tunes. This was followed by "Is It All Over My Face" by Loose Joints, released in 1980. In 1982, Arthur Russell and William Socolov founded Sleeping Bag records and their first release was his "24-24 Music". The number "Go Bang", which originated from this album, was remixed as a 12" single by Francois Kevorkian.
In 1983, the album "Tower Of Meaning" (Chatham Square) was released. This compelling and meditative recording, conducted by Julius Eastman, represents just a fragment of a much larger composition, which includes voices along with its instrumentation.
At the same time, Arthur continued to release dance singles such as "Tell You Today" (4th And Broadway, 1983) an upbeat dance groove featuring the vocals of Joyce Bowden. Additional dance tunes included "Wax The Van" (Jump Street, 1985) with vocals by Lola Blank, wife of notorious Bob, "Treehouse/Schoolbell" (Sleeping Bag, 1986) and "Let's Go Swimming" (Upside/Rough Trade, 1986).
During the mid 1980s, Arthur Russell gave many performances, either accompanying himself on cello with a myriad of effects, or working with a small ensemble consisting of Mustafa Ahmed, Steven Hall, Elodie Lauten and Peter Zummo.
1986 saw the release of "World Of Echo" (Upside/Rough Trade, 1986), which incorporated many of his ideas for pop, dance and classical music for both solo and cello format. This critically acclaimed album was included in Melody Maker's "Top Thirty Releases of 1986".
Arthur also collaborated with a number of choreographers, including John Bernd, Diane Madden, Alison Salzinger and Stephanie Woodard.
When Arthur Russell died of AIDS on April 4, 1992, at the age of 40, the obituary for in the Village Voice wrote: "his songs were so personal that it seems as though he simply vanished into his music."
In 2008, Matt Wolf released a documentary of Russell called "Wild Combination: A Portrait Of Arthur Russell".
Arthur Russell Discography
- 31 Vocals
- 50 Instruments & Performance
- 133 Writing & Arrangement
- 5 Featuring & Presenting
- 59 Production
- 6 Technical
- 4 Visual
- 4 Acting, Literary & Spoken