Music Portrait | posted 03.11.2020
Mort Garson
Music for plants and people
He was involved in over 900 songs and reached number 1 on the Billboard charts, but Mort Garson’s current fame is based on an encounter with Bob Moog, whom he persuaded to give him one of his synthesizers. A rediscovery.
Text Christoph Benkeser , Translation Sebastian Hinz
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You can find the Vinyl records by Mort Garson in the HHV Records webshop.


»My father was a dreamer, he lived in his thoughts«, says Day Darmet. She is the daughter of electronics pioneer Mort Garson, who died in 2008. A man who recorded an album for plants in 1976, scored the NASA trip to the moon and claims over 900 arrangement credits on Discogs. Most recently, the label Sacred Bones reissued his album »Mothers Earth Plantasia«, an ambient record with a green thumb and schmaltzy synthesizer melodies, almost forgotten, but slipped into the playlists of hundreds of thousands of people through the YouTube algorithm. Garson’s daughter Day now lives in San Francisco. The fact that further albums by Mort Garson see the light of the day is, besides Sacred Bones boss Caleb Braaten, mainly thanks to her: »In the basement there are boxes upon boxes of my father’s music«, says Darmet. Four years later, a large part of his music is once again turning on turntables—to potted plants and gardens.

Mort Garson was born on the east coast of Canada in 1924 as the child of Jewish immigrants. The family moved to New York City after his birth, during World War II he was drafted by the army. After his return to the U.S., Garson earned his living as a session musician, but convinced big record companies with his talent for catchy compositions and hit-suitable arrangements. »Our Day Will Come« from Ruby & the Romantics reached number 1 in the Billboard charts—partyle due to Garson’s efforts who contributed the arrangement back in 1962. »Right after that we moved to California«, says his daughter. Garson started a collaboration with Doris Day, wrote jingles for commercials and films, but still found time to arrange world hits like »Guantanamera« by The Sandpipers. Successes like these not only earned the family’s living, but also brought the opportunity for musical experimentation. When Garson met Bob Moog in the late 1960s, he talked him into giving him one of his new synthesizers, making him one of only 28 people who could tinker with an original Moog at the time—an opportunity that heralded the end of his commercial career.

In 1967 Garson bursted in between rock guitars and LSD sessions with an unknown space sound. »The Zodiac: Cosmic Sounds« is the first record to feature a Moog synthesizer—and the first harbinger of Garson’s departure from traditional song structures. Initially, however, he used the Moog to compose jingles for TV and radio, introducing the sound of the new instrument to an audience of millions. Eventually, everybody listened to Moog because it sounded like the future, and everybody wanted to sound like the future because they heard the Moog—one of many reasons why Garson was charged with scoring the Apollo 11 mission in 1969. »The only sounds that fit space travel are electronic sounds«, Garson later said. Day, his daughter, remembers the day of the moon landing well. »It was his 45th birthday, all his friends met at our place, the sun was shining. There were cocktails and champagne, then we gathered around the TV. You could see the astronauts landing on the moon, walking around and raising the flag— and it was all great. But the greatest thing for our family was the music my father had composed on the Moog.«

At that time, the family lived in Laurel Canyon, neighborhood of the Hollywood Hills and the place which later should give birth to soft rock. From there Garson continued to compose for commercials and film, partly due to financial reasons. »My mother wanted financial security«, says Darmet, who emphasizes that her father had never been pushing for money. »He wasn’t interested whether the check said ten dollars or ten million. But when he started to deal only with the electronic stuff, my mother saw no possibility that he could make any money with it at all.« She should be right. People who had just listened to Pink Floyd’s »Ummagumma« or the Jimi Hendrix Experience may had wondered, while listening to Garson’s noisy space pop albums like »Electronic Hair Pieces« or »Didn’t You Hear«, whether the man might have a nut loose. Ultimatetely though, records like »Black Mass« set the psychedelic soul trip to music and probably ran up and down in some communal familys—until many became too old, stuffy or down, cut their hair and built the ideological bridge to their inner yoga guru.

In the 1970s, the USA saw the rise of a fitness cult, and the spiritual origin went through the stomach: vegetarian restaurants lost their way between Wendy’s, Burger King and McDonalds. When »The Secret Life of Plants«, a book that attributed plants with telepathic abilities and human-like feelings, fell into Garson’s hands, the man behind his room-filling Moog synthesizer outgrew himself: »Mothers Earth’s Plantasia«, released in 1976, played »warm music for plants and the people who love them.« An ode to nature, a passion for the allotment garden—Mort Garson gave plants a reason to grow and nature ten pious little songs that, ironically, you could only get in a hipster store for greenery or as a free giftaway to mattresses.

While magnolia plants were being watered, Mort Garson said goodbye to experimental fields. In the 1980s his son died of AIDS and the family moved to France. Nevertheless, the Moog master never gave up on his music. »He wrote music until the day he died«, says Darmet. When Garson died in San Francisco on January 4, 2008, plants from all over the world bowed. »The last song he played for me was Stormy Weather. I wish he could see how many people are rediscovering his music nowadays.« In fact, the music of Garson lives on— a sentence that is engraved on his tombstone, his daughter says. »For me and for many other people.«


You can find the Vinyl records by Mort Garson in the HHV Records webshop.

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