Every week I picked up The Reader, I always looked forward to reading MoJoPo’s horoscopes, no matter how bizarre or off-kilter they were. He had way of making me laugh with his wordy and often rhyming predictions of the future.
There is so much more to MoJo than horoscopes. Born Michael Joseph Pryor, the Omaha native attended Creighton Prep and played football for the Nebraska Cornhuskers in, what he referred to as, his “warrior days.” Pryor always had an intense interest in astrology, and he got into art after taking classes at Creighton University under Fr. Leland Luebbers.
When I was 19, I waited tables part-time at McFoster’s Natural Kind Café, the ideal establishment for the ageless hippie or vivacious vegetarian. MoJo was a regular customer. While at first I was intimidated by his wise old wizard ways, eventually I warmed up to him. Fifteen years later, my memories have faded, but I’ll always remember his kind spirit. The last time I saw MoJo was three weeks ago. Of course, I had no idea it was to be my last sighting of the beloved Omaha figure. He was standing in front of his Benson music studio and as I drove by, I saw him with his guitar in hand and presumably his harmonica was somewhere on him, as well. After all, MoJo loved music. He loved playing the harmonica and singing the blues. He loved anything where he could let his creative spirit fly.
Sadly, MoJo passed away Nov. 20, 2013, at 9:52 p.m. from a sudden heart attack. He was 67-years-old. However, it might not have been sudden to MoJo. Heather Swain, MoJo’s niece, has a feeling he knew of his impending death.
“Michael J Pryor has danced in and out of my life since I was a little girl as he was my uncle,” Swain says. “I’ve traveled with him and lived with him in Hawaii, as well. Although he’s always played an important role in my life as a mentor and a mystic, I haven’t had the real connection like I had over this last summer. MoJo and I collaborated at the Voodoo Lounge making music together multiple times a week and, of course, had incredible conversations. We talked about everything all the way down to the English language and vocabulary we should or should not use in our lives. I had one particular last conversation with MoJo that now has struck a cord in my heart in a form of comfort from his passing.
“MoJo told me about the vision of his Mother he had and her message about death she delivered to him,” she continues. “At that time in our conversation, we broke ground with tears streaming and ultimate understanding he knew it was close to his time to pass. I now know he was purely prepping me and those around him of his passing. I should of known he knew it was his time as he always had my answers even before I asked the question. His answers were never direct, but more of a Taoist way of simplicity. He was a pure soul. MoJo has definitely earned his wings before he passed and he knew exactly where he was going. Fly home my brother.”
MoJo believed strongly in astrology and mysticism, and said he once lived in a forest for 10 months, which good friend/owner of the Om Center, Sandy Aquila could attest.
“I used to visit him in Santa Cruz, California,” Aquila remembers. “He lived in a teepee in the forest and he had the telephone company hook up a phone in the teepee! Back then they were dial phones. Many years ago, he taught me a dinner prayer/blessing that I still use to this day: ‘May this food and the precious Prana in the air bless us and make us the best vehicle of the truth.’ Thank you Michael.”
Shannon Byers, also a vet of McFoster’s, grew close to MoJo over the years and recognized how much of an impact he had on a wide array of people.
“It’s so difficult to put into just a few paragraphs how someone as complex as MoJo has effected your life,” Byers says. “Almost 20 years have passed since meeting him while working at McFoster’s. He was the best conversationalist I’ve ever known. Over the years we became friends and he was a mentor for me in finding my own spirituality. The first of many talks we had, I was 22, and I spent an evening at his house just talking about the universe and how we all intertwine together. It blew my mind at the time and since then we have had similar conversations about spirituality, raising children, music, and astrology.
“He was a great man whose door was always open, never judging, always listening and helping people find their way,” she adds. “It’s so easy to become lost in this world, but being around MoJo things were a little clearer, your purpose was more defined and more important. With his music, his words and his perspective, everything in life seemed more obtainable and just simple. That’s what he did for me at least, as I’m sure a lot of other people whose lives he touched feel the same way. I will definitely miss him, but I do know he’s not gone.”
Another close friend, Steven Wise, was with him often and marveled at MoJo’s ability to connect with people and never stray from, what he believes, was his chosen path.
“Life as with people is so much one’s personal experience,” Wise says. “Who can say what another may have thought or felt, each of us with our own perception, of understanding in the life we share. With words we find ourselves stumbling to express something that before could be so easily covered, by a handshaking or talking about the days events, over a nice-warm cup of chai. The thoughts can capture the smile, but getting it on a paper and touching another heart, transferring the smile. That’s art. A life in the day of MoJo stayed pretty much consistent, what changed were the nouns.
“Since 2011, two of the topics closest to his heart were art without purpose and selfless service, and this is how he lived,” he continues. “MoJo shared his life through music and helping others, and regardless what day it was, nothing was begun before consulting the stars and morning yoga (though sometimes morning yoga got cut short, which he’d make up for later in the day). With MoJo, people came first and other things would have to wait. The work was/is learning to fill in around one another, helping where help is needed, blessing each other with our hearts and talents, in the sharing of our lives. ‘First things first,’ he would always say,‘ and the new moon is in…Sagittarius.’”
Finally, MoJo’s partner of many years, Star, was able to find a few quiet moments to pen down her thoughts. She thought after 13 years with someone, it would prove easy to write something about the man, but she struggled a bit to find the right words. Below are a few of her sentiments and a poem she wrote about him the first year they met.
“The characteristic about Michael Pryor that always stood out the most for me was his sense of destiny; regarding himself, humanity and the universe as a whole,” Star says. “He always seemed to have such a clarity about what he was here to do, compared to most of us, many of whom just seem to be groping through life. And he didn’t just see his own path clearly. He had a way of helping others to get a better sense of their destinies, too. I watched it happen many a time.”
He has come to show me death
In the most dear, dread, familiar face
In which I’ll ever see it
Before I meet it in my own.
How do you [I] do?
How very strange to meet you now, at last
so much about you for so long
Now, here you are
With-[in] the face of one long loved and lost
to become fast friends.
My Older Brother by Jan Pryor
Michael Joseph Pryor, was a unique and wonderful individual who I’m blessed to have had as my older brother. He has always been my best friend, my closest confidant, and outside of myself, my greatest source of inspiration and solace. I find the continued response to his death absolutely incredible as shown by the depth and breadth of emotion that has poured forth since 20 November… indeed a tribute to how special a human being that Michael was and to the strength of Michael’s enduring spirit.
I think there is a unique combination of attributes that made Michael the deeply loved and respected icon that Mojopo was:
1) Michael lived his life without compromise. He consistently lived by his standard of right and wrong and did not allow himself to stray from that. He fiercely defended his principles and lived life on his terms. As Michael noted in his musical lyrics, by the grace of God, Michael was allowed to live his life as he chose. This was the foundation of his greatness… his uncompromising nature that guided him.
2) Michael was filled with kindness and love for his fellow human beings. He was truly concerned about everyone that he met and did not hesitate to offer whatever was needed to make others more whole… be it friendship, a smile, a kind word, his physical presence, money, advice, calmness, goodwill, understanding, forgiveness… whatever it was that they needed. How many people considered Michael as their best friend, their father figure, even their savior? It’s truly outstanding… I have known no one else like this. From my perspective, Michael repeatedly sacrificed himself for others. He was always there when I needed him. He dropped everything and stayed by my side for two years when I was at the depth of despair and didn’t know how I could possibly go forward… Michael saved me!… and he’s saved countless others… amazing!
3) Michael was a creative genius. He was at his core a true artistic genius who was always thinking of how he could express his creativity for the sake of the beauty and joy that he and others got from it. Art for the sake of art… in his painting, his music, his poetry, his astrology, his philosophy… down to the small details of the things that he surrounded himself with physically… in the way he spoke… in the way he answered his phone! His home on Franklin Street is like a museum of artifacts and mystical bits and pieces that he assembled and continuously refined. Michael looked at everything as art and beauty!
4) Michael had an intense thirst for knowledge and had an uncanny ability to translate this knowledge into clarity of thinking and understanding. He read broadly and continuously sought out information and ideas that he used to refine a mystic philosophy through which he interpreted his/our existence. His astrological and metaphysical genius is obvious as was his ability to translate his philosophy in a way that we could understand and feel. The clarity with which he saw his own mortality leaves us numb.
We all deeply miss Michael because we want more of that tremendous being that he was. But in our hearts we know that his spirit soars and that he is finally free. Michael’s whole life focused on the day that his spirit transcended this physical plane. He faced that transition with open eyes, with an open heart and with an intense understanding and knowing of what his death meant to his continued journey. How did the Mojo know?… … he knew because he had prepared himself to know! I am happy for him. I know that Michael is where he’s supposed to be.
Back in the day, at Prep, assignment papers had to have AMDG at the top, middle. Name below to the left. Date to the right. On one paper one time, Michael just did his initials M.J.P. but being his artistic self, he made the periods cute little circular “o’s”. The Jebbie got the papers and saw his and said, “Okay. Who’s the wise guy? Who’s “Mo- Jopp-Po”? Pryor, corrected him: “That’s MO-jo-po, Father.” Instant JUG
— Michael Braunstein
The Transformation and Farewell Concert
Mojo’s first mention in the Omaha World-Herald in 1964: Michael Joseph Pryor, Creighton Prep end — alternated between end and tackle on powerful champion team … 200, 6-0, 17 … Made first tackle for Prep on opening kick-off two consecutive years. … Son of Mr. and Mrs. O. Douglas Pryor … Plans Business Administration course at University of Nebraska.
Six years later, a story on Mojo’s band Bumpy Action, from the World-Herald, July 7, 1970, called “Bumpy Action to Split Scene.”
About six months ago, a rock group named Bumpy Action rented a house at 5140 Dodge Street for $150 a month.
The group, six young men and a woman, ages 18 to 21, played sax, guitars, organ, flute, drums and other instruments. Their amplified sound is loud, with a strong beat, and practice sessions irked some neighbors.
Then the band began allowing other youths to spend the night. Many were out-of-town strangers without a place to stay.
The sight of a bedroll carrying youth, perhaps with a beard and long hair, irked some neighbors. At least 29 children live on South Fifty-First Avenue, within a block of the house, and some parents objected to the possible influence of the house’s residents on their children.
The noise of Dodge Street, complaints of neighbors, confinement of the city and other factors led Bumpy Action to decide to move. Sunday evening, the group decided to give a farewell concert outdoors for the neighborhood and for their friends …
The concert was only about three songs old when the police arrived. … One neighbor complained about a youth urinating on a tree in front of her home, another of the beer and pop cans and other litter strewn in the area. Group members … said they didn’t know why everyone got so upset.
The concert was an act of friendship, they said. Playing on the front porch as Bumpy Action pondered its future were the group’s dogs, Freedom and Blues.
— From research by Max Sparber
Please share additional memories and stories at www.mojoplanetpower.com. May we never forget!