Poet, Playwright, Journalist Lennox Raphael, Dead at 84

Poet, Playwright, Journalist Lennox Raphael, Dead at 84

30 November 2023 /Announcements

Carman Moore’s “A Village Triptych”, commissioned by the ASCAP Charles Kingsford Fund and the Roger Shapiro Fund for New Music ends with a setting of a poem by Caman Moore’s great friend Lennox Raphael.

Lennox Raphael, artist, writer, journalist and politician, died quietly at home this past week, with wife Helga Gimbel and daughter Papaya on November 27, 2023 in Jægerspris, Denmark, just outside of Copenhagen, after a long period of illness. He is survived by six children (in birth order) Raphael Raphael, Ion Birch, Sesame Raphael, Sasa Raphael, Jah Raphael and Papaya Raphael, and 11 grandchildren.

Lennox Raphael is perhaps best remembered for his play, Che!, his Succès de scandal, which resulted in eight arrests for obscenity in New York City.


Lennox Raphael was born in Trinidad in 1939. He came to New York City in the 1960s and began working as a journalist, writing for the East Village Other and editing for Umbra, while continuing his voluminous writing of poetry and such theatrical creations as Che! and Blue Soap. Through his embrace of ‘60s Downtown left-wing causes Lennox met John Lennon who introduced him to the American composer Carman Moore, then a music critic for The Village Voice.

Moore tells the story of how at the end of a Village Voice interview session with Yoko and John he got deep into a “memorably wonderful” improv session with John (Moore on John’s pump organ and John on acoustic guitar), only to be interrupted by a doorbell’s ringing. It was Lennox Raphael. Thereupon, grumpily, Moore was first introduced by John to Lennox. Carman and Lennox became life-long friends and colleagues.

Eventually Raphael left New York for his native Trinidad where he involved himself in political writing for the major party there but was the victim of attacks on his life by thugs from the alternate party, who also burned his Shakespearean-style wooden theater to the ground. After a long hospitalization from one such attack, he left Trinidad for a safer life in Denmark, where he became an important leader in artistic performances in Copenhagen. There he met the actress/singer Lotte Arnsbjerg and advised her, traveling in 2005 to New York, to meet with Carman Moore. For the remainder of Raphael’s life, he collaborated with Carman Moore as song and opera co-creators, often working Lotte Arnsbjerg.

Raphael and Moore became cross-Atlantic co-collaborators, notably creating the still in-progress opera Waiting for Obama. Earlier this year, Moore’s song setting of Raphael’s poem “Ouropia” was included in his song cycle “A Village Triptych” co-commissioned by the ASCAP Foundation Charles Kingsford Fund and the Roger Shapiro Fund, for The Village Trip, which presented two performances of the new work on Septembert 19 at the Salmagundi Art Club and on October 24 at Loft393 in Tribeca.

–William Anderson

The Loft393 performance —

Obituary written by Lennox’s son:

Lennox Raphael (September 4, 1939 to November 27, 2023.)

Lennox Raphael Obituary

Lennox Raphael, artist, writer, journalist and politician, died quietly at home this past week, with wife Helga Gimbel and daughter Papaya on November 27, 2023 in Jægerspris, Denmark, just outside of Copenhagen, after a long period of illness.

Lennox was perhaps best known for his controversial off-Broadway play Che, produced at the free store Theatre in early 1969. Due to nudity on stage and sexual content, all involved were arrested, including actors, director, and Lennox, the writer. A well-publicized trial that followed rallied the international artistic community and eventually allowed the play to resume after a judge determined it was protected by the First Amendment. Later plays included Blue Soap and Waiting for Mick Jagger.

Lennox was born September 4, 1939 in Port of Spain, Trinidad (due to error it was written as September 17th for most of his life). Born to Sidney Lionel Raphael (policeman and owner of a cocoa plantation) and wife Amy, Lennox was one of six children.

While still a teenager, Lennox began being published as a journalist, first working at the Guardian in Trinidad. He declined a college scholarship in the UK to work as active journalist in the daily morning newspaper the Gleaner, in Kingston, Jamaica.

In the early 1960s, he and first wife Maryanne Raphael would briefly become celebrated painters in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, painting under the name LENMAR, becoming so popular they would be mobbed in public appearances.

After traveling, including extended stay in Morocco, Lennox moved to New York City, where he was active in the late 1960s/early 1970s artistic and cultural scene. This included active involvement with the radical countercultural revolutionary political-theater activists the Yippies with friends Abby Hoffman and Jerry Rubin. He was also regular staff writer for the celebrated underground newspaper the East Village Other and was actively involved with the Fluxus experimental artistic community. Lennox was also a member of the famed UMBRA WORKSHOP, with Pulitzer Prize nominated Ishmael Reed, writers Steve Cannon, Tom Dent, David Henderson, and others. In the Manhattan art scene, his frequent poetry readings would include Allen Ginsberg, William Burroughs, Calvin Hernton, Norman Pritchard and others.

Lennox also lectured at the University of Rhode Island and also worked with Herb Kohl and his Teachers & Writers Collaborative in New York Public Schools.

Through his friendship with John Lennon and Yoko Ono, Lennox served as a member of the Plastic Ono Band, performing tambourine with John and Yoko in performance at the John Sinclair Freedom Rally December, 1971. Lennox also collaborated with or appears in the writing of many of his other writer friends, including Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail and Robert Gover’s Voodoo Contra, which documents Gover’s time in Trinidad with Lennox.

With second wife, artist Manuela (Cuqui) Aponte, in Trinidad, Lennox built The Theatre, fulfilling a lifetime dream of owning his own theatre. Numerous plays he wrote were produced there, including Waiting for Mick Jagger, which prompted a visit by the performer. In Trinidad, Lennox became active in the political scene, and in the early 1980s was the Organization for National Reconstruction (ONR)’s candidate for Port of Spain East. In a bitterly fought election, The Theatre was burned down, with arson suspected. Lennox would go on to work closely with former President and Prime Minister Arthur Napoleon Raymond Robinson.

Through his political work, Lennox met the Danish economist Karen Helveg Petersen, who he married in 1993, moving to Denmark, where he would live for the remainder of his life. As part of his daily practice, he would swim in the ocean, including through winter. He was active in the Copenhagen art scene, with frequent readings, appearances and exhibitions of his work. Collaborations with others included Des Arts, 2020 Visions DK, Artmoney, and Copenhagen Art Club. He also co-curated the international art festival Berlin Soup with Jesper Dalmose. In 2004, he married obstetrics & gynecologist/academic Helga Gimbel. At his death, they lived together in a house built in 1789 in Jægerspris, where she cared for him in the last several months of his life and was with him at his death.

Lennox’s numerous articles, novels, and books of poetry include “A Very Stern Discipline: An Interview with Ralph Ellison,” a published interview written with James Thompson and Steve Cannon for Harper’s in March 1967, Garden of Hope: Autobiography of a Marriage (2006), and an essay in Winter Tales: Men Write About Aging (Serving House Books, 2011), a collection with works by Robert Gover, Norman Mailer, Mario Vargas Llosa, and others. Lennox’s numerous unpublished novels, plays and other work include his 20-year effort completed just before his death, the experimental novel Naipaul’s Country. He is survived by six children (in birth order) Raphael Raphael, Ion Birch, Sesame Raphael, Sasa Raphael, Jah Raphael and Papaya Raphael, and 11 grandchildren.

Raphael Raphael