Malcolm Mooney is a visual artist, poet, singer and lyricist, and one of the most celebrated figures in contemporary music circles. He was born (1944) and raised in Yonkers, New York. His mother, Alma Cora, was a schoolteacher and his father, Malcolm Sr., was a silk-screen printer and business owner. Malcolm Mooney started making art at a young age, and in middle school, he was selected to exhibit at the Hudson River Museum; he also began singing with an a cappella vocal group known as the Six-Fifths. In high school, Mooney attended Hackley School, a private preparatory school located in Westchester County (he was their first African-American student). Mooney's college years were spent at Boston University where he played freshman basketball while majoring in fine arts; he was also accepted into the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity.
In 1968, after college, Mooney traveled to Southern Asia, the Middle East & Europe. While in Paris, a friend, Serge Tcherepnin, introduced him to Hildegard Schmidt, who invited him to visit her husband, Irmin Schmidt, in his studio, in Cologne, Germany. Mooney soon joined Irmin Schmidt, Holger Czukay, Jaki Liebezeit, and Michael Karoli as the lead vocalist and lyricist of their band known as Inner Space (soon changed to Can at Mooney's suggestion). Founding-member Holger Czukay has said of Mooney: “Can wasn’t sure which way to go musically until Malcolm Mooney jumped up to the microphone one day and pushed us into A RHYTHM.” Can’s rhythmical legacy can be traced through virtually all subsequent developments in contemporary music (and beyond), from post-punk experimentation of the late 1970s to today’s post-disco scenes. Mooney’s recordings with Can remain among the most influential of the past fifty years.
In April 2017, Mooney appeared at The Barbican Centre in London as the lead singer of The Can Project, a reunion concert with Irmin Schmidt joined by Sonic Youth's Thurston Moore and My Bloody Valentine's Debbie Googe.
Malcolm Mooney offers up his lyrics and vocal inventions; part spoken word, part proto-punk with his band the Tenth Planet. With drummer and composer Sean Noonan, Mooney's lithe funkiness is on display in the noise rock, free-jazz ensemble. Mooney's beat poetry, scat meditations, and mahogany tenor are showcased on his Spoken Word recordings with Andy Votel's Twisted Nerve Records.
Malcolm Mooney's latest musical collaborators are, Peter Conheim, Alexis Marcello, Eva Mendoza, Daniel Moreno, Steve Shelley, and Devon Waldman. In late 2019, this new band, Malcolm Mooney and the Eleventh Planet recorded an album in New Jersey that is currently in post-production.
Malcolm Mooney has performed, and exhibited his artwork, extensively over the decades; most recently with gigs in Paris, New York, London, Los Angeles and shows at White Columns Gallery in NYC, Skyline College Art Gallery, CA, and with KyleMarks Projects (May 2020), Calgary Alberta. From the early 1970s to the present, Mooney has taught painting and drawing at a number of institutions including with the New York City Board of Education; the Hudson River Museum, College of Mount Saint Vincent, the Artist in Museum Program at LA Artcore Gallery in Los Angeles and Wentworth Institute of Technology, Boston. Malcolm Mooney is currently an instructor of abstract painting at Alberta University of the Arts. He received a BFA from Boston University’s School of Fine and Applied Arts, and an MFA from California State University Los Angeles where he became a member of Kappa Pi Art Honor Society.