Knee 5 of Einstein on the Beach by Philip Glass concludes the epic opera with a poem/text which I have often see attributed to Samuel M Johnson, usually titled as Lovers on a Park Bench. I can find no concrete or useful information about this person online.

The only reference to him (other than being accredited the writing of the poem) is from Berliner Festspiele but it is not exactly illuminating...

The late Samuel M. Johnson originated the role of Mr. Johnson and was the patriarch of the original 1976 “Einstein on the Beach” company. He had appeared in the CBS series “Beacon Hill”, in the movies “Night Watch” and “Shuttle Escapade”, and in “Everybody Dance”, a musical comedy.

But even these clues haven't lead me to anything more substantial. Although it does rule out the 18th Century British writer Samuel Johnson.

Can anyone expand at all on the origin of the text/poem and it's author? Was this a one off or does he have a body of work? Was he a contemporary of Glass? Is he still alive today? Did he receive a writing credit/royalties? All information gladly received.

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    "Is he still alive today?": the phrase "the late" indicates that Samuel M. Johnson died sometime before the quoted text was written. The phrases "originated the role of Mr. Johnson" and "was the patriarch of the original 1976 'Einstein on the Beach' company" indicate that he was alive in 1976, so a contemporary of the composer.
    – phoog
    Jun 29 '21 at 10:17
  • The problem is this info is at present unverifiable, even though it is repeated over and over operawest.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/…. It also says he appeared in a bunch of movies but IMDB doesn't substantiate this, so right now this is pretty wooly stuff :( Jun 29 '21 at 13:53
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    Another fragment from a newYorker piece about Robert Wilson ' For “Einstein,” he invited Samuel M. Johnson, a seventy-seven-year-old black performer, to write two texts, including the final speech about love. '
    – Angst
    Jul 9 '21 at 17:32

From the New York Times review, November 19, 1976:

Included in the cast of 26 are Mr. Wilson, Mr. Glass, the dancers Andrew deGroat and Lucinda Childs, the actress Sheryl Sutton and a 10‐year‐old boy, Paul Mann. A pivotal figure on stage is Samuel M. Johnson, a 77‐year‐old black actor, who auditioned for his role by reciting Patrick Henry's speech on “liberty or death.”

As that was roughly 45 years ago, it is safe to say that Mr. Johnson is indeed no longer with us. He is also mentioned in the August 1st review of the performance at the Avignon festival.

I found a Samuel M Johnson born in Oklahoma in 1899 in the Social Security Death Index, but the site I was using wouldn't show further details, including the year of death, without my registering.

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    this is really interesting, so he is the original performer of the poem and clearly an actor too. Thank you, this also lead me to find this IMDB page which doesn't add much but it is a snip more than I had before imdb.com/name/nm11561745 Jun 29 '21 at 14:53
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    @gingerbreadboy Here is also his entry on VIAF with contains other links to LoC, Worldcat and BNF. Also, this booklet about Einstein on the Beach was written in 1992 and it states the show is in memory of Samuel M. Johnson.
    – xhienne
    Jul 1 '21 at 8:36
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    thank you @xhienne this booklet is wonderful. Looking through it seems Johnson wrote multiple sections of text for the Opera. Also thank you for the VIAF link, show Johnson had published a memoir called Often Back: The Tales of Harlem in or around 1972, which we can see reviewed in this episode of EBONY magazine books.google.co.uk/… Jul 1 '21 at 10:22

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