Students in a Harper College class on the 1970s American punk rock movement got a chance to meet a legend when musician-turned-author Richard Hell visited their class on May 1.
Hell, who was on campus to promote his new autobiography, sat with the class for an hour, answering the students' questions about his days on the punk rock scene, his place in music history and the influence he had on culture.
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He also discussed the process of writing his recently published autobiography, passages of which were read by the students as part of their class. Asked how he feels about the current state of the scene he helped create, Hell said everything from his past has changed so much -- from music to fashion to his hometown of New York City -- that he now feels removed from it.
"It rarely happens that I have any kind of flashback," Hell said. "Even when I was writing the book, I was able to get a feel of what things were like for me, but it was all clinical. I'm not the same person I was."
Harper College literature professor Richard Johnson pointed out that it has become very popular for musicians and artists of the '60s and '70s to be looking back and reflecting in a memoir.
"Well, yeah, because we got old," Hell joked.
The frontman of Richard Hell and the Voidoids, Hell, born Richard Meyers, has played with the bands Television and Dim Stars and was part of the same New York music scene that produced The Ramones, The Talking Heads and Blondie. Since retiring from music in 1984, Hell has written two novels, "Go On" and "Godlike," as well as a number of published poems, essays and articles.
In addition to the in-class visit, Hell made a public appearance on campus later that evening in which he performed a reading, answered audience questions and signed copies of his books.
Johnson said that Hell's classroom visit was a great opportunity to bring the '70s counterculture to life.
"After spending the past 15 weeks reading, listening to and discussing the literature, music and art of the punk movement, our students were thrilled to have an icon of the era visit our class," Johnson said. "It brought everything we've done full circle."
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