Sun Ra (May 22, 1914May 30, 1993) was an innovative jazz composer, bandleader, piano and synthesizer player, who came to be known as much for his "cosmic philosophy" as for his phenomenal musical compositions and performances.
Born Herman Poole Blount in Birmingham, Alabama, he was nicknamed Sonny from his youth. He later abandoned his birth name and took on the name and persona of Sun Ra (Ra being the name of the ancient Egyptian god of the Sun). He led The Arkestra, an ensemble with an ever-changing lineup, which also used a variety of names: "The Solar Myth Arkestra," the "Blue Universe Arkestra," and many other permutations.
Claiming that he was of the "Angel Race" and not from Earth, but rather from Saturn, Ra developed a complicated persona of "cosmic" philosophies and lyrical poetry that preached "awareness" and peace above all. Some regarded him as a kook in this regard, but most recognized his immense musical talents.
He eschewed racism (having been a victim of it many times experienced during his touring and booking schedule with the Arkestra) and insisted his musicians avoid drug abuse, though he rarely came out and directly spoke about any controversial subjects.