The true story of Father Yod, guru and unsung legend of psych rock

One day we will have to look at the kilos of drugs that circulated in California during the 1960s. Perhaps this would explain why so many people ended up twisting, breaking with the social world, the norms and, sometimes, the reason . It would also make it possible to delve into the restless brains of those who have contributed greatly, for good or bad reasons, to making sixties a highly fantasized decade.

James Edward Baker is in this a textbook case. His childhood, however, takes place far from the beaches of the West Coast. Born in July 1922 in Ohio, the young man crossed the first twenty years of his life with frenzy, multiplying the experiences of which he would end up boasting, even though most of them are difficult to verify.

He is said to have shot down nine Japanese fighter planes during World War II, although his name is not on the official list of recipients of the award. SilverStar. It is also said that he would be an expert in jujitsu, that he allegedly killed two men and robbed a few banks. Above all, it is said that he landed in Los Angeles with the idea of ​​a career as a stuntman, convinced of being able to join the cast of the next Tarzan.

Problem: Hollywood is a world of sharks and James is obviously not equipped to face the competition. For lack of anything better, in April 1969 he opened what is considered the first vegetarian restaurant in Los Angeles: The Source Restauranta place located on Sunset Strip, which can be proud of having welcomed prestigious customers, such as John Lennon, Julie ChristieMarlon Brando or Warren Beatty.

“A disgusting old man
on a trip of lust»

Nurtured in esoteric philosophy, trained in kabbalah, close to the Nature Boys, a group of beatniks advocating a lifestyle in tune with nature, James Edward Baker is nevertheless driven by capitalist thoughts. In search of fame, he takes advantage of the popularity of his restaurant to promote his philosophy of life and recruit his disciples, whom he invites to his Sunday meditation sessions. These met with such success that they allowed him in barely a year to rent the Chandler mansion, which had twenty-four rooms.

“Father Yod was first and foremost a father figure to all those people who clearly needed an example in their lives.”

Djin Aquarian, a former member of the community

Ambitious, the American now has the means to invite his followers to follow his diet “spiritual boot camp”, composed of cold showers, yoga, wellness exercises and the consumption of marijuana, which he perceives as a way of touching the divine, of freeing himself from his negative impulses. His nickname within the community, “sacred grass”says a lot about the almost spiritual relationship with cannabis.

Nobody suspected it then, but this was only the first step in a plan meticulously thought out by the one who should now be renamed “Father Yod”. A sage, some say. A guru, say others. even a “disgusting old man on a lust trip”, according to his wife, Robin Ropper. Still, during the 1970s, the 50-year-old found himself at the head of the Source Family: a community living together in a luxurious mansion, nestled in the heart of the Hollywood hills.

Guru Father Yod and the Source Family. | Electracloud screenshot through YouTube

At the height of the sect, there would have been more than 150 people within the Family, all obsessed with this search for the sacred promised by Father Yod. The latter, however, operates in a similar way to dozens of other gurus. As often, it is a question of abandoning one’s true identity, of getting rid of one’s material possessions, of turning one’s back on one’s loved ones, who accept to remain in ignorance, and to listen only to their “father”, the only one able to guide them towards the light.

“Father Yod was above all a father figure for all those people who clearly needed an example in their lives”said Djin Aquarian, a member of the community, in an interview with

As often, it is also a question of sex, especially when it is in favor of Father Yod, but also of music. Starting with rock, this debauchery of guitars through which the guru sees the possibility of spreading his precepts more widely, inspired by the philosophy new-age.

Of all the groups present in the community, Ya Ho Wha 13 is certainly the most active. We see it perform in faculties and high schools, we observe its members in their long, flowing and colorful dresses, we hear them spreading their good word on nine albums, all released in limited edition on their own label, Higher Key.

Within Ya Ho Wha 13, there are in particular Sky Saxonthe leader of The Seeds, a proto-garage formation that he abandoned in the early 1970s to join the ranks of Father Yod, convinced that he was dealing with God. Or at least, to a genius of another stamp. Evidenced by this interview given in 2007 to LA Records:

“Father Yod, in my opinion, was the greatest singer in the world – better thanAl Jolsonbetter than the Beatles, better than Elvis, better than myself, the Doors or anyone else. It was like a great magician who played music with his children. Once again, this is a father-son relationship, a relationship where one drinks from the knowledge of the other, in search of landmarks, of a way forward.

Devoted, Sky Saxon was even the first to bring the music of Ya Ho Wa 13 to the general public, with the release in 1998 of the box set God and Hair: Yahowha Collection on a Japanese label which had initially approached him with the idea of ​​releasing his solo projects.

A fruitful discography

In fact, Father Yod has nothing to do with a protective figure. His relationships with young girls, although passed over in silence, raise questions about those around him, while the ban on using traditional medicine within the community proves problematic in certain situations: serious illness, childbirth, etc.

America, still reeling from the assassination of Sharon Tate by the Manson Family, gets scared. Parents of the youngest members of the community fear Father Yod and press charges of kidnapping underage girls, while child protection officers, concerned about reports of frequent staph infections, alert the authorities. Consequence: Father Yod, his fourteen wives (all married with the idea of ​​encouraging them to stay by his side) and his followers move to Hawaii, where Father Yod dies on August 25, 1975 after a paragliding accident on the east coast of Hawaii. Oahu.

Legend would have it that he admitted to his followers, a few minutes before his death, that he was in fact only an average human being, in no way the worthy representative of a divine word.

At 53, the American leaves behind a sect, strange memories and dozens of completely disoriented followers after five or six years spent living in a community. For some, it is necessary to learn to reintegrate into a traditional society. For others, accepting guilt-inducing thoughts from loved ones, such as: “I told you”.

For still others, unconcerned about what was going on in the back room, there remains above all from this period a rich discography, made up of psychedelic rock, witty lyrics and endless improvisations, often performed after long sessions. meditation, between 3 a.m. and 6 a.m.

Beyond the nine discs officially published, published between 500 and 1,000 copies, it would seem that Ya Ho Wha 13 has recorded around sixty albums. Proof that the work of Father Yod arouses the interest of diggerssome of his records have even been reissued over the past ten years by the Drag City label (Pavement, Stereolab).

What do we hear there? Music steeped in funk, jazz, krautrock inherited from the founding fathers (CAN, in particular), but also the buzzing of insects, whistles and words intended to promote trance – not for nothing, finally, that Father Yod had installed loudspeakers in the meeting room of the community so they can listen to the music being created.

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The true story of Father Yod, guru and unsung legend of psych rock

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