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John Trudell - an American Indian singer-songwriter and poet

Updated on December 21, 2015

John Trudell is a poet at heart

John Trudell was not a singer-songwriter in the usual sense of the term because he was first and foremost a poet. To his words are added the music to form his songs.

John wrote powerful reflections on how he saw the world incorporating a Native American viewpoint into his lyrics. John Trudell's father was a member of the Santee Sioux tribe.

But John Trudell was far more than a poet because he was also an actor and an activist within the American Indian Movement (AIM).

Buy John Trudell words and music on Amazon

John Trudell

John Trudell
John Trudell

John Trudell's Crazy Horse (Original Video)

More about John Trudell

John Trudell was born in 1946 in Omaha, Nebraska. He had a varied life and experiences, including some very traumatic times, and he drew upon his past to inspire his writings. He was in the American Armed forces for a period of four years and served in Vietnam.

Afterwards he became a front-line political activist from 1969 onward. That same year he was a spokesman for the Indians of All Tribes and represented them for their occupation of Alcatraz Island. Trudell was also the Chairman of the American Indian Movement from 1972 to 1979.

In 1979, John Trudell suffered a massive personal tragedy in his life with the death of his pregnant wife, mother-in-law and three children in a fire at their home. To help him get over his grief he found therapy in writing as a poet.

In 1979, John Trudell met with singer-song-writer star Jackson Browne and this led to him becoming interested in getting involved in the world of music himself.

In 1983 John Trudell released his début cassette album on his own label Peace Company. The album was entitled Tribal Voice .

He wrote lyrics for another album with musical accompaniment by guitarist Jesse Ed Davis. This album, entitled AKA Graffiti Man , and released first in 1986 on cassette on Peace Company too, was remastered for re-release in 1992 on CD on the Rykodisc Records label.

In 1986, the album AKA Graffiti Man had attracted both the attention and some very high praise from Bob Dylan - he actually told Rolling Stone magazine that in his opinion it was the album of the year.

John Trudell's 'songs' mix his spoken word poetry with a blend of Native American music as well as blues and modern rock.

John Trudell has released several other albums including Blue Indians, in 1999, and Bone Days in 2001, which was produced and sponsored by actress Anjelina Jolie.

A very powerful track from this latter album is entitled Crazy Horse . It is a tribute to the famous American Indian leader but looking at the world as it is now and in relation to the past.

In Crazy Horse, John Trudell asks: "One does not sell the earth that people walk upon - we are the land? How do we sell our mother? How do we sell the stars? How do we sell the air?"

John Trudell also established himself as an actor, appearing in the films Thunderheart (1992), On Deadly Ground (1995) and Smoke Signals (1998). He was an adviser in the making of Incident at Oglala , which was directed by Michael Apted and produced by actor and director Robert Redford.

Heather Rae spent over 10 years making a film about John Trudell, which was entitled simply Trudell and was released in 2005. The film was given its première the same year at the Sundance Film Festival.

John Trudell died from cancer at his home in Santa Clara County in California on 8 December, 2015. He was 69.

John Trudell " Religious vs Spiritual" Perception of Reality

© 2010 Steve Andrews


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    • Bard of Ely profile imageAUTHOR

      Steve Andrews 

      8 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal

      Thank you for your comments, Nellieanna!

    • Nellieanna profile image

      Nellieanna Hay 

      8 years ago from TEXAS

      He speaks truth. I just now met him and I am glad I did.

    • Bard of Ely profile imageAUTHOR

      Steve Andrews 

      8 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal

      Thank you, Equealla! I am very glad you appreciate John too!

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      I really like reading your hubs. You are introducing people into my life, whom I never would have known, if it was not for you.

      John is indeed a fascinating person, a great spirit. Listening to the words he wrote, makes me feel too inadequate to have any opinion at all.

      We can just sit and wonder: How on earth did we manage to allow the big perspective to become so distorted?

      I do agree 100% when he states we are not guilty, but responsible. If all intelligence can only but grasp this concept, I think paradise will return. As it is in heaven.....

    • Bard of Ely profile imageAUTHOR

      Steve Andrews 

      8 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal

      Thanks for posting, Saddlerider1! I recommend all the videos by John - there are loads on Youtube. He is a brilliant poet and such a wise man!

    • saddlerider1 profile image


      8 years ago

      What a beautiful spirit John is. I watched the videos with sadness yet understanding. I truly believe in his message to the world. I especially liked what I heard in this video

      Religious vs Spiritual

      It sends a very clear message to the world. Will the World take heed. So fare it is not listening, it has closed ears and the governments of our world are resisting and not listening to it's PEOPLES.

    • Bard of Ely profile imageAUTHOR

      Steve Andrews 

      8 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal

      John is a really wise and talented man and it is a pity he is not far more widely known!

    • KKalmes profile image


      8 years ago from Chicago, Illinois

      Hello Bard, double thumbs up both awesome and beautiful... I will be back to watch the videos when my speakers are replaced. I will definitely catch the movie Trudell... and pick up his album Bone Days.

      You have both inspired me to be more aware of my earthly spirituality...

    • Bard of Ely profile imageAUTHOR

      Steve Andrews 

      8 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal

      Thank YOU, Darlene!

    • Darlene Sabella profile image

      Darlene Sabella 

      8 years ago from Hello, my name is Toast and Jam, I live in the forest with my dog named Sam ...

      This is my world, thank you for touching my heart and soul my dear Bard of Ely, Mother Earth needs love and care or she will turn upside down. I love this hub and thank for my music.....your fan

    • Bard of Ely profile imageAUTHOR

      Steve Andrews 

      8 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal

      Thank you, Wyanjen! Sadly the leaders of this world and most people (who have not been given much of a chance)do not choose the "way of the Earth."

    • wyanjen profile image

      Jen King 

      8 years ago from Wyandotte Michigan

      I first saw Thunderheart in a dinky theater in 1992. The small room made the film seem even bigger.

      Jimmy Looks Twice said, "There is a way to live with the earth and a way not to live with the earth. We choose the way of earth." That line struck a chord beyond the context of the story, and I've carried the idea with me ever since.

      When Thunderheart is showing, I stop what I'm doing and watch it. Smoke Signals, too. :)

      John Trudell is a strong man with a strong message.


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