Who is Marvin Pontiac?

MARVIN PONTIAC was hit and killed by a bus in June 1977 ending the life of one of the most enigmatic geniuses of modern music. He was born in 1932, the son of an African father from Mali and a white Jewish mother from New Rochelle, New York. The father’s original last name was Toure but he changed it to Pontiac when the family moved to Detroit, believing it to be a conventional American name.

Marvin’s father left the family when Marvin was two years old. When his mother was institutionalized in 1936, the father returned and brought the young boy to Bamako, Mali where Marvin was raised until he was fifteen. The music that he heard there would influence him forever.

At fifteen Marvin moved by himself to Chicago where he became versed in playing blues harmonica. At the age of seventeen, Marvin was accused by the great Little Walter of copying his harmonica style. This accusation led to a fistfight outside of a small club on Maxwell Street. Losing a fight to the much smaller Little Walter was so humiliating to the young Marvin that he left Chicago and moved to Lubbock, Texas where he became a plumber’s assistant.

Not much is known about him for the next three years. There are unsubstantiated rumors that Marvin may have been involved in a bank robbery in 1950. In 1952, he had a minor hit for Acorn Records with the then controversial song “I’m a Doggy.” Oddly enough, unbeknownst to Marvin and his label, he simultaneously had an enormous bootleg success in Nigeria with the beautiful song “Pancakes.”

His disdain and mistrust of the music business is well documented and he soon fell out with Acorn’s owner, Norman Hector. Although, approached by other labels, Marvin refused to record for anyone unless the owner of the label came to his home in Slidell, La and mowed his lawn.

Reportedly Marvin’s music was the only music that Jackson Pollock would ever listen to while he painted, this respect was not reciprocated. In 1970 Marvin believed that he was abducted by aliens. He felt his mother had had a similar unsettling experience, which had led to her breakdown. He stopped playing music and dedicated all of his time and energy to amicably contacting these creatures who had previously probed his body so brutally.

When he was arrested for riding a bicycle naked down the side streets of Slidell, La, it provided a sad but clear view of Marvin’s coming years.

Marvin held the tribal belief that having a photograph taken of yourself could steal your soul, thus these candid shots are the only ones known to exist.

In 1971 he moved back to Detroit where he drifted forever and permanently into insanity.

Others about him…
“In my formative years, as an aspiring bass player, there was nothing I listened to more than Marvin Pontiac.”- Flea

“A dazzling collection! It strikes me that Pontiac was so uncontainably prescient that one might think that these tracks had been assembled today.”- David Bowie

“A Revelation.” – Leonard Cohen

“This record has changed my life.”- John Lurie

“Marvin would kick your ass for nothing. A true genius, Marvin was a pure original.”- Iggy Pop

“The innovation and possibility in this music leaves me speechless.”- Beck

“Marvin is good.”- Angelique Kidjo

“…beds of eerie, hypnotic, textural rhythm with that tragic voice of the American male floating on top, or actually below.”- Mike Gordon, Phish

“I’ve always been a fan of Mr. Pontiac’s — my housekeeper Cubby really loves it.”- Michael Stipe



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