I Sing Walt Whitman!


Walt Whitman hosting the KMET Acoustic Flashback benefit for Pat "Paraquat" Kelley at The Canyon Club in Agoura Hills, CA.Using a great author’s own words in the tradition of “Mark Twain Tonight” and Emily Dickinson in “Belle of Amherst,” actor/singer John Slade embodies another titan in American literature, Walt Whitman. Twain was the funniest; Dickinson the wittiest; but Whitman was the most inspiring. His times were more divided than our own, but he never lost his faith in America, in life, and the possibility of things getting better.

He’s back to sing, chant, and rap his amazingly modern worldview, preaching from the Gospel According to Walt.

 Official entrant, 57th Grammy® Awards for
“Best Spoken Word Album”
John Slade

Refreshingly free of the cynicism of our postmodern age, Whitman believed that “even a mouse is a miracle,” that love is the binding force of the Universe, and that human consciousness is “surely headed somewhere” and will only continue to evolve and awaken. Walt Whitman Sings! is part lecture and part Chautauqua-tent revival meeting, and one of the unique features of this one-man concert play is that John has set Whitman’s rolling verses to gospel, folk and hip-hop music!

“Actor John Slade channels the boundless spirit of Walt Whitman in new one-man show” — Wallace Baine, Santa Cruz Sentinel

A century before Carl Sagan, Neil deGrasse Tyson, evolutionary evangelist Michael Dowd, and futurist Barbara Marx-Hubbard, Walt Whitman was already teaching us to see the world through “evolutionary eyes.”

Ojai Quarterly – Uncle Walt’s Ghost

Below:  Walt Whitman’s poem “O Captain, My Captain” performed live by John Slade at Ojai Underground Exchange in Ojai, CA.

Brochure – Walt Whitman Sings

Above:  Walt Whitman asks “Who Learns My Lesson Complete?” at the Integral Life spiritual conference in Boulder, CO.

Ojai Quarterly – Walt Whitman review

Below:  Walt Whitman points out “This is the female form…” in Divine Nimbus (track 7) from the album I Sing Walt Whitman!

Below:  John teaches high school kids to sing Whitman’s “I Hear America Singing”. (He captured the kids on video and added the musical accompaniment later to create the song.)

The complete show runs about 80 minutes. John also performs edited versions for occasions such as President’s Day, Independence Day, society meetings, spiritual conferences, and poetry festivals … wherever Whitman’s clarion voice is needed.

To book or inquire, contact Shantel
Dow Artists, Inc.,
tel. (641) 203-4100

Before you check out the new website, WhitmanSings.com, see below what people are saying about “I Sing Walt Whitman!” and offer some feedback of your own!

24 Responses to I Sing Walt Whitman!

  1. The only person more thrilled than our audience was last night with Whitman Sings! was Walt Whitman himself.

    John Slade channels the blood, spirit, bones and power of Whitman! You rarely see better theatre and acting; he makes Whitman’s powerful words rise like Lazarus from the page, reborn, bursting with life, and gleaming with light.

    Critically, John illuminates why Walt is so relevant right now. Whitman Sings! should be a mandatory civics class for every artist, scientist, political candidate and citizen.

  2. We go to the theater for entertainment and information, and we seem to be getting less and less of each. John Slade’s vivid, exhilarating one-man play, I Sing Walt Whitman!, mostly assembled, with love and cunning, from Walt’s own words, is terrifically entertaining and, better, rich with urgent, resonant, profoundly relevant information about all the mysteries of love, time, brotherhood, art, mortality, and community that preoccupied Walt.

    So much for the text. How was John Slade’s performance? I went with my usual skeptical, critical hat on, the play began with an actor who looked like Walt charming us, speaking, reciting, making us laugh, singing as he accompanied himself at the piano — and at some point very early on I wasn’t judging: I was hungrily listening to Walt. I went home with the conviction that I should drop everything and devote myself for a year or two to Walt. In a post-play discussion, John asked modestly if we thought the show would be good for school audiences. I said, “Yes! They need it!” Children will be better people — more tolerant, compassionate, kind, and more capable of thinking for themselves — if they know Walt; and fired by John’s heart, brain, and energy, they’ will know Walt. But as important as our children are, that’s not enough. “You should do this for Congress!,” I added. “And then in every church!” Even people in Congress and our churches might become better people — more tolerant, compassionate, kind, and better able to think for themselves — if they spent an evening with Walt in his current incarnation.

  3. Alex Roe, Artistic Director, Metropolitan Playhouse says:

    At first blush, John’s music is the distinctive innovation in the portrayal of an historical figure. But the secret magic of Whitman Sings is John’s strength as an actor. His ease with Walt’s character, his sensitive engagement with his audience, and his simple magnetism as a performer are together disarming, inviting, and in the end very moving. It is a joy to be in his presence.

  4. Lacey says:

    I just had the pleasure of seeing I Sing Walt Whitman a week ago. I’ve never been a poetry person, but now I’m going to go out and buy a copy of Leaves of Grass. John Slade was that good! I was entranced by his performance, and so was everyone else in the audience from what I could see.

    Unlike other one-man shows in this genre that often feel as out-of-date as the historical white men that they feature, Slade’s I Sing Walt Whitman is fresh and alive. His Walt Whitman is not bound by time or form. Slade breaks the fourth wall as delightfully and effectively as Whitman broke the “rules” of poetry.

    This show doesn’t just give us the words of Walt Whitman; it gives us the essence of a man I’d like to get to know a lot better.

    Thank you, John Slade, for bring Walt Whitman to life in all his joyfully enigmatic frenzy!

  5. Ruth Goltzer says:

    John Slade IS Walt Whitman!
    Bringing Walt Whitman to life through Walt’s own beautiful words, John works magic on his audience. We revisit poems we read (perhaps long ago) through John’s amazing performance using both song and the spoken word. You will leave the show feeling “oxygenated” and ready for more. A must experience for all!

  6. Walt Whitman blew my mind as a teen. I visited his childhood home, not far from my own, and read several of the biographies. But never before have I experienced his work the way it was meant to be – aurally. John’s selections transmit both the grandiosity and the specificity of Whitman’s great vision and cosmic consciousness.

    The tracks on I Sing Walt Whitman! span the gamut: the glories of love, the terrible suffering of war and the transcendent beauty of nature. They include the most famous pieces (Song of the Open Road; O Captain, My Captain; and When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d) as well as lesser known, but no less inspiring, pieces.

    Throughout the clean mix, John presents the verses with fine clarity. The very contemporary music ranges from percussion-based hip-hop and rock to solo piano and blues.

    John’s background, as an actor, director, playwright and singer/songwriter with several excellent albums, is clearly evident here in his passionate and soulful vocals. John is the perfect interpreter of Whitman. Like the poet himself, there’s something quintessentially American about John, whether it be this album or his theatrical productions of Our Town; Crockett, By Himself; or Shiloh.

    I have no doubt that Whitman is America’s greatest poet, the embodiment of an aware and enlightened, loving and expansive being. In a way, he is our Shakespeare. And it’s no accident that John is also an award-winning Shakespearian director and actor of note. So let Whitman via Slade envelop your own oceanic consciousness. As Walt affirms, it is indeed “wonderful.”

  7. Larry Harvey says:

    That was fun, John.
    An amazing job!

  8. Ronald OToole says:

    We just saw you on stage in Sedona and could not have been more thrilled and impressed with your performance. Do you have a schedule of your performances so we can tell our friend.

    You mentioned a CD of your performance that will be coming out soon. HOW DO I ORDER?

    Ronald OToole

    • slade says:

      Ronald, I’ll email you when the CD is released. Please note, though, it’s a CD of only the music, not the whole play. I keep a schedule of events at http://slademan.com/evolutionaries; there are no performances in the immediate future, but several are pending. I’ll give you a heads-up next time I’m in Sedona. Thanks for getting in touch!

  9. Jon Meyer says:

    John, I’m so happy to hear that your performance in Sedona was all you hoped
    for and weightily ‘phat’! That’s awesome! As I said to you, your show is absolutely wonderful, especially due to its unique presentation and material! Most of the time when we present an outside performance, I enjoy it, but have no desire to sit through it several more times. That is not the case with I SING WALT WHITMAN. I could sit through that show many more times! Setting Whitman’s poetry to song and rap-beats is so incredibly effective and engaging, it comes across as fresh and new each time its performed. No doubt, your passion for the material is transparent and obvious and you imbue it with the kind of transcendence I love to see when attending live theatre.
    Speaking of Laurie, I am indebted to her as much as I am to you. I don’t think we could have had a more effective technician to run the show. I’m sure having her at the controls was of great comfort to you. I know it was to me! 🙂 Working with the two of you was like Red Skelton’s Guzzler’s Ginroutine…”smoooooooth!” The two of you couldn’t have been easier to work with. I’m very grateful to both of you for that. I am also incredibly grateful to Frank for bringing you and the show to my attention. He has been an asset in many ways in a short time since moving to Prescott.
    Please stay in touch. Best of luck on the evolution of the show (mainly bookings). Feel free to list me as a reference for any future bookings you’re negotiating – I’m more than happy to recommend the show to anyone in the strongest terms.
    Enjoy your day in Sedona. Safe travels back to Ojai.
    Wishing you and Laurie all the very best!
    With admiration and fondness,
    Jon Meyer
    Executive Director, Prescott Center for the Arts

  10. What an INCREDIBLE production! It was as if Walt Whitman himself was on in our theatre! John had our audience MESMERIZED and ENCHANTED from the moment he walked on the stage. Truly a brilliant, triumphant production that pays tribute to one of the greatest poets in history. Part education, part tent revival and ALL a powerful pairing of the spoken word and music! Our audience was ON ITS FEET with a rousing standing ovation. A magical evening of theater and history. John embodies Walt Whitman, and I have no doubt that if the great poet was alive today, he would say “John plays me better than I play me!” I cannot rave about the show enough! EVERYONE needs to see this absolutely brilliant and timeless masterpiece of theater and the spoken word. BRAVO!

    Patrick Schweiss
    Director, Mary D. Fisher Theatre and Sedona Film Festival
    Sedona, Arizona

  11. Len Klaif says:

    When we got to Libbey Bowl yesterday to see your “Whitman thing” the guy who was on before you was playing. Lovely voice, excellent guitar player, nice lyrics…and I kept thinking that there simply was no way for one person to not get lost on the bowl stage, it simply was way too immense. And then you came out and the stage was a perfect size and you filled the bowl with the intensity and talent you brought to the work.
    > BRAVO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    > Lenny for Linda & myself

  12. John…just got your link today re the Integral Spotlight and can’t wait to go home and watch it. I have an article coming out this month in the Journal of Integral Theory re Whitman. My thesis is that Whitman had a sustained meditation practice…I was able to find his exact meditation in one of his notebooks. By engaging in meditation along with his other practices he provided a method to becoming “enlightened” or whatever we want to call it and created a path for what I call the “the New Person”. In many ways, he could be called the first “evolutionary” and established an American precedent for integral self development. Let’s be in touch!

  13. michelle herzel says:

    Hi John,
    Your reading / concert last night was fabulous—inspirational, rapping, dancing, all of it. You took us right into
    Whitman. Think I’ll read the guy now.

    Thanks for the journey,
    michelle herzel and ron segal

  14. Laura Raynor says:

    You certainly did sing Walt Whitman, John!
    What an inspired work you created.
    The only other time I was in an audience that went from cold to
    connected with open hearts,
    in the space of one act,
    was when I saw Maggie Smith do
    Lettuce and Loveage in NY in the late 80’s..
    I was inspired to go back to USC.
    I am again inspired.. by the palpable gift you gave each of us.
    You were radient and lit our candles.
    Thank you so much for being the artist you are.
    Thank you for hanging in.

  15. judy vander says:

    January 15th
    Yes, I was weeping. I really was overcome with your performance, your extraordinary channeling of one of our greatest poets. You seemed to inhabit Whitman with such ease, and your use of slides and drums/keyboard accompaniment all enhanced the reciting/singing of Whitman’s words. We so need Whitman at this time. He is still avant-garde and such a colossal spirit–encompassing sex, gender issues, evolution and science, philosophy, nature, love, being human, being–last but certainly not least, art, words, communication. We need him, and I believe your Walt Whitman will go to New York and many places elsewhere. Other people should have the privilege of seeing and hearing John Slade/Walt Whitman.

    When I was in high school I had an old copy of Leaves of Grass. I used to go to a wooded part of a park that was near our house. I would find my secret spot and read Leaves of Grass out loud to myself. I became inebriated with Whitman–going to the park became a habit and I read probably two-thirds of the book out loud to myself. It is in many ways a revolutionary book and I was the right age to be his comrade–to travel the road with him. I took it all very personally when he exhorted me to join him, to be his comrade. When you pointed at the audience as you read his profession–“I love you,” well, when I read those words I felt, I knew he was speaking to me. It was my entry to poetry and to the emotional power of art. My tears were for your performance, Walt Whitman, and at the same time such a sweet remembrance and connection with myself as a sixteen-year-old.

    Thank you for all that.

  16. Ken Eros says:

    Dear John,
    Wow! That was simply amazing. It truly brought a tear to my eye watching you perform and present this latest unique and heartfelt chapter in your artistic and personal evolution. Thanks for including me in your journey. I loved it!


  17. Dianne McCourtney says:

    I am still glowing, along with the other 135 Ojai folks who packed the room at The Art Center last night (January 14th.) We were wowed by the amazing and delightful John Slade along with his alter ego, Walt Whitman. What an absolute, jaw dropping, foot tapping, belly laughing, tear jerking and inspiring experience. Thank you, dear John, for your passion and joy of life. As you said, in the end – Life – It’s WONDERFUL! And so are you! More, please 🙂

  18. Brian Berman says:

    January 14th, 2013 Ojai, CA – Many of us were blown away last night by John’s performance at a packed house, standing room only Ojai Art Center. If you missed it, you might have to travel to NYC to see him in the future. John, that was by far the greatest one person performance I have ever seen. I laughed, I cried, and I smiled through it all with my heart dancing inside seeing your talent shine for so many of your community. Still glowing. Brian

  19. John/Walt,
    What an intelligent, amusing, nurturing evening you just gave us! You explored Whitman’s roots, his place in history, and the essence of his creativity and spirit with such insight and passion we felt honored to have been there. Thank you so much!
    Virginia and Steve

  20. Richard Lyons says:

    Deep and profound….and light and whimsical…and earthbound and mystical all in one! Slade captures and manifests Whitman’s essence through his universal and timeless literary and personal revelations…..heretic, Methodist, naturalist and transcendentalist….an American dichotomy to the core… “Thank God for Evolution!”.

  21. Gary Best says:


    What a beautiful thing you have undertaken. I sat there in awe and shame of my ignorance. Inspired. There is such a wonder in the naked truth of one man that transcends time and place. Maybe only poetry can describe these larger truths. Unshackled of rhyme and meter. Holding firmly a shattered and floating mirror that we can only catch in glimpses. I am inspired by his courage and yours. Keep going. It’s worth it.


  22. Dennis Perrin says:

    Equally Wonderful
    Water from the Well
    For Life and R)evolution
    As Well
    Beautiful Work John Slade
    Blessings to You and Yours

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