A great artist you’ve never heard about…

He was a poet, a charismatic leader of a rock-band, a blues-man, a signer gifted with a powerful, uncommon voice, a talented draughtsman… Unfinished primary school was all his education, he had never received any musical or artistic tutorials. Yet his arresting personality emanated with sensitivity so great, that it was almost tangible… A perfect dreamer and a loner, his ideal was an Indian galloping through a prairie on a wild horse… In a sense he was just like that, never complying with so-called the ‘mainstream’ model of live, losing himself for freedom and driving crazy everyone loving him and caring for him (and functioning in a more ‘real’ world)… There are little myth-stories about this artist keeping on forgetting about his own concerts and vanishing without a sign to re-appear after weeks (he did that just after his wedding ceremony…) Yet, what he gave out of himself was much greater, those genius few sparks of poignant authenticity, that crowds fed up with illusions and lies were waiting for…

Ryszard Riedel (phonetic transcription: ‘ryshard rydel’ – ‘y’ pron. hardly) called by everybody ‘Rysiek’ (‘si’ pron. softly like in ‘Shiite’) – b. 1956 in an impoverished family of a miner and a shopkeeper, he grew up among heavy industry of Poland’s most devastated region – ‘Silesia’, the communist regime had started to lose its grip a little bit, but there was no real hope for any significant political, economical and cultural change.

Rysiek had his dreams, his poetry, his music and unfortunately – very fashionable in those days narcotics to fight all that. He joined ‘Dzem’ (‘jam’) rock-band and quickly became an icon figure for, at least, two generations of Poles. In simple, yet beautifully crafted texts he sang mostly about his own thoughtful and painful journey through life… To use his own words:

Solitude, it is such a terrible fear / It is surrounding, penetrating me / You know, Mum, I’ve imagined, there is no God / There is no God, no… (Letter to M)

They say about me in a town / What kind of a character he is? / He is drunk all the time / Surely, he doesn’t know what shame is (…) Whiskey, my wife, you are the best of all dames… (Whiskey)

Though my pockets are empty / And sometimes there is no enough vodka / I will never change myself / I will always live like this / I’ve never listened to my father/ Although he was warning me:’They’ll let you down’/ Because of the naivety in the boy’s eyes/ Now there are many who laughs at… (Outsider)

Rysiek Riedel lost his long-term battle with himself in 1994, being only 38 and on a peak of his artistic career.

He didn’t succeed in detoxing his organism from the narcotic abuse. He left his admirers with shock, deep sadness, a great hunger for ‘more’ – more beauty, more truth, more freedom and… anger too… He just wouldn’t have allowed anybody to help him… He chose the slow, extremely painful dying despite of all admiration and love he got from dozens of friends supporting him…

But some people are just not from this world. And the ‘bare’ reality means such a torture, they have to invent a parallel universe, just for themselves. And it is better to leave them alone dreaming, because they are more sane and happier in their dreams. And they die just as they live: incomprehensibly and ‘scandalously’ for most ‘normal’ observers. But, in most cases, they’re those for whom you consider your ‘correct’ life worth living at all…


Because of the size of this article I’ve chosen to affix videos with R.R’s performances in another post here. Enjoy!


About kasia

Born in Poland. Lives in Ireland, Cork. Visual artist. View all posts by kasia

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