The family later moved to Chicago, where he attended Lane Technical College Prep High School and the University of Chicago. He has three sons with his wife Beryl, whom he married in 1945. During the 1940s, he was heard on The World's Great Novels and other radio programs broadcast from Chicago. One of which, Honore de Balzac's short story “Une passion dans le désert”, was recorded for the 1955 album Passion in the Desert.
In 1955 he provided the voiceover on Billy Vaughn's version of Shifting Whispering Sands, which peaked at #5 on the Billboard Hot 100. He subsequently attracted wider attention when he recorded the aural vignettes on Word Jazz (Dot, 1957). Love Words, Son of Word Jazz (Dot, 1958) and his other albums in this vein feature Nordine's narration over cool jazz by the Fred Katz Group featuring Chico Hamilton recording under an alias. Nordine began performing and recording such albums at the peak of the beat era and was associated with the poetry-and-jazz movement. However, it has been observed that some of Nordine's writings "are more akin to Franz Kafka or Edgar Allan Poe" than to the beats. Many of his word jazz tracks feature critiques of societal norms.
Some are lightweight and humorous, while others reveal dark, paranoid undercurrents and bizarre, dream-like scenarios. Nordine's DVD, The Eye Is Never Filled, (2005) provides a flow of abstract visuals to accompany the audio tracks. In 1990 Nordine was approached by Jerry Garcia of The Grateful Dead to be the anchor for their New Year's Eve radio broadcast from Oakland, California. For the broadcast he recorded some improvisations with Garcia, drummer Mickey Hart and Egyptian musician Hamza El-Din. This subsequently lead to an album Devout Catalyst, released on the Grateful Dead's own label in 1991 and Upper Limbo in 1993 and appearances with the band such as their show at Rosemont, Illinois in March 1993. Nordine hosted a weekly radio program and maintains residences in Chicago, Illinois, and Spread Eagle, Wisconsin. In 2007 he was a performer at the David Bowie curated High Line Festival in New York. Nordine appeared as the narrator, credited as "The Stranger", in Philip Kaufman's 1967 underground comedy Fearless Frank.
He was also Linda Blair's vocal coach for her role in The Exorcist. Nordine narrated several films for classroom use, made by Coronet Instructional Films in the 1950s. In at least one, Developing Your Character, he appears on screen. On television, Nordine did a series of readings on a show titled Faces in the Window on WNBQ, and Fred Astaire danced to Nordine's "My Baby" on a TV special. Nordine's past radio series were Now Nordine and Word Jazz. Nordine worked with author Maurice Sendak on Sesame Street, providing the narration for the animated segments "Bumble Ardy" and "Seven Monsters". Nordine provided the voiceover for NewTek's Video Toaster demo reels, such as the 1991 "Revolution". Discography 1955 – Passion in the Desert (FM) 1957 – Word Jazz (Dot) 1958 – Son of Word Jazz (Dot) 1958 – Love Words (Dot) – also released as The Voice of Love (Hamilton) 1959 – Next! (Dot) 1960 – Word Jazz Vol. II (Dot) 1967 – Colors (Philips) 1967 – Ken Nordine Does Robert Shure's Twink (Philips) 1979 – Stare with Your Ears (Snail) 1984 – Triple Talk (Snail) 1986 – Grandson of Word Jazz (Snail) 1991 – Devout Catalyst (Grateful Dead) 1993 – Upper Limbo (Grateful Dead) 2001 – Transparent Mask (Asphodel) 2005 – The Eye Is Never Filled (DVD, Snail) Compilations 1959 – My Baby (Dot) 1968 – The Classic Collection: The Best of Word Jazz Vol.
3 (Dot) 1971 – How Are Things in Your Town? (Blue Thumb) 1990 – Best of Word Jazz (Rhino) 2005 – You're Getting Better: The Word Jazz Dot Masters (Hip-O Select) Guest appearances 1955 – The Shifting Whispering Sands – Billy Vaughn (Dot) (credited as Ken Nordene on this release) 1957 – Concert in the Sky – Teddy Phillips and His Orchestra (Decca) 1958 – Sounds in Space (RCA Victor SP-33-13) 1962 – Radio Rebus (US Army Recruiting Service) 1968 – H. P. Lovecraft II – H. P.
Lovecraft (Philips) – "Nothing's Boy" 1997 – Fun for the Whole Family – Lord Runningclam (Bottom Heavy) / 1998 (Moonshine Music) – "Faces in the Night" and "Flibberty Jib" 1998 – Sound Museum – Towa Tei (Elektra) – "The Sound Museum" 2000 – A Dub Plate of Food Vol. 2 – DJ Food (Ninja Tune) 2000 – Kaleidoscope – DJ Food (Ninja Tune) – "The Ageing Young Rebel" 2000 – Xen Cuts – Various Artists – DJ Food (Ninja Tune) – "The Ageing Young Rebel" 2002 – Cago – Dead Man Ray (Virgin) – "Blue Volkswagen 10:10 AM" 2007 – Excellent Italian Greyhound – Shellac (Touch & Go) – "Genuine Lulabelle" [uncredited] 2012 – The Search Engine DJ Food – "All Covered In Darkness"(sampled vocal) Compilation tracks 1959 – Deejay's Choice: 25 Top Album Performances on Dot (Dot) – "My Baby" 1959 – Excerpts from the Original Soundtrack of Another Evening with Fred Astaire (Chrysler) – "My Baby" 1965 – A Child's Introduction to the Classics (Childcraft/Wing) – "Barber of Seville" 1973 – Original Early Top 40 Hits (Paramount) – "The Shifting Whispering Sands, Part 1" with Billy Vaughn 1988 – Stay Awake: Various Interpretations of Music from Vintage Disney Films (A&M) 1991 – Train of Thought: Stories, Music & Eclectic Audio Entertainment, Vol.1 (Com Audio) – "Mr. City" 1992 – The Beat Generation box set (Rhino) – "Reaching Into In" and "Hunger Is From" 1993 – A Chance Operation: The John Cage Tribute (Koch) – "A Cage Went in Search of a Bird" 1994 – Incredibly Strange Music, Vol. 2 (Asphodel) – "Flesh," "Green" and "Yellow" 1995 – All Day Thumbsucker Revisited (Blue Thumb/GRP) – "Roger" 1995 – Chop Suey Rock (Hot & Sour) – "Hot" as Ken Nordine and His Kinsmen 1995 – Monster Sounds and Boppin' Tracks (Marginal) – "Strollin' Spooks" 1997 – Closed on Account of Rabies: Poems and Tales of Edgar Allan Poe (Mercury) – "The Conqueror Worm" 1999 – The Annoying Music Show's The Annoying Music Show CD 2000 – The Annoying Music Show's The Annoying Music Show Holiday CD – "Ken Nordine Says Jim Nayder's Name" 2002 – The Best of the Beat Generation (Rhino) – "My Baby" Related recordings 1951 – Incredible But True Radio (Columbia) Read more on Last.fm.
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