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Ivers was born in Illinois, but raised in Brookline, a suburb of Boston, Massachusetts. He attended the Roxbury Latin School and then Harvard University, majoring in classical languages, but chose a career in music. He started playing harmonica with the Boston-based Street Choir. He embarked on a solo career in 1969 with the Epic release of his debut, Knight of the Blue Communion (also featuring Sri Lankan jazz diva Yolande Bavan, who many[who?] erroneously believe was married to Ivers).
In 1971 Ivers replaced Yolande with Asha Puthli on Take It Out On Me, his second album for Epic. The single from this second album, a cover of the Marvin Gaye number, Ain't That Peculiar, backed by Ivers' original, Clarence O' Day, was released and briefly entered the Top 100 Singles Billboard charts but the album was shelved by Epic (only finally seeing the light of day in 2009). Subsequently, Peter signed with Warner Bros., where he recorded two more albums.
In 1971 and 1972, WNET and WGBH presented Jesus, A Passion Play for Americans, a play produced by Jac Venza, Christopher Sarson and written and directed by Timothy Mayer. The music and lyrics were Ivers' from Knight of the Blue Communion. Other important roles are played by Andreas Teuber, Asha Puthli, Steve Kaplan and Laura Esterman. The work was broadcast as part of the WNET American Playhouse series. As a rock retelling of the story of Jesus, the work was a precursor to classics of that genre, such as Godspell and Jesus Christ Superstar.
Ivers' best friend was Harvard classmate Douglas Kenney, founder of the National Lampoon; he played Beautiful Dreamer on the harmonica at Kenney's funeral. Ivers was also close friends with John Belushi. Both men preceded Ivers in death.
In 1981 Ivers was tapped by David Jove to host New Wave Theatre on Los Angeles TV station KSCI which was shown irregularly as part of the weekend program Night Flight on the fledgling USA Network. The program was a frantic cacophony of music, theater and comedy, lorded over by Ivers with his manic presentation. Using a method of filming known as "live taped", the show was the first opportunity for many alternative musicians to receive nationwide exposure. Notable bands who appeared on the show included The Angry Samoans, Dead Kennedys, 45 Grave, Fear and The Plugz.
Death and biography
In 1983, Peter Ivers was found bludgeoned to death with a hammer in his Los Angeles apartment. The murderer was never identified. Harvard established the Peter Ivers Visiting Artist Program in his memory.
Josh Frank and Charlie Buckholtz have written a book about Ivers' life, art and mysterious death, In Heaven Everything Is Fine: The Unsolved Life of Peter Ivers and the Lost History of New Wave Theatre (published 2008). On the basis of new information unearthed during the creation of this book, the Los Angeles Police Department has reopened their investigation into Ivers' death.
- Knight of the Blue Communion (Epic, 1969)
- Take It Out on Me (recorded for Epic in 1971 but not released until 2009, by Wounded Bird Records)
- Terminal Love (Warner Bros., 1974)
- Peter Ivers (also known as Peter Peter Ivers) (Warner Bros., 1976)
- Nirvana Peter (Warner Bros., 1985)*
- The Untold Stories (K2B2 Records, 2008)
* Compilation of previous Warner recordings with bonus tracks
- Buellgrass - Big Night at Ojai (K2B2 Records, 1983); released on CD as Buellgrass - Across the Tracks
- John Klemmer - Magic and Movement (Impulse!, 1974)
- Josh Frank and Charlie Buckholtz, In Heaven Everything Is Fine: The Unsolved Life of Peter Ivers and the Lost History of New Wave Theatre (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2008) ISBN 978-1-4165-5120-1
- Peter Ivers at the Internet Movie Database
- Josh Frank's Peter Ivers site
- L.A. Weekly article
- Peter Ivers last band he was in The Girlz of Zaetar