Jan Holmgren began writing music at age ten. After a tour of duty in the SwedishArmy he received musical education in Sweden and immigrated to the UnitedStates in 1965. He worked as a flight attendant for AmericanAirlines for 25 years.
In 1980 Holmgren became lovers with the Haitian-American poet writer and performer Assotto Saint. Together they collaborated on a variety of artistic creations. Holmgren wrote songs for all of Saints many theatre pieces on gay black life which they produced themselves for the Metamorphosis Theatre they founded together.
They formed a "techno pop duo band" Xotika for which Saint was lead singer. Xotikas dance song "Forever Gay" was released on the CD Feeding the Flame by Flying Fish Records in 1990.
Holmgren is usually credited as a composer under the names Jaan Urban or Jan Urban. Jan Holmgren died of AIDS-related complications in NewYork at the age of 53.
Jan Holmgren is buried in The Evergreens Cemetery, Brooklyn, New York, alongside with Assotto Saint, who died 15 months later.
Assotto Saint was born as Yves François Lubin, in Les Cayes, Haiti. He was raised by his mother and did not meet his father until he was an adult. He recognized that he was attracted to men when he was seven years old, but did not realize that there was a gay community until he left Haiti and settled in New York.
He moved to New York City in 1970, enrolling briefly in a pre-med program at Queens College, but soon dropped out to pursue his artistic interests. He adopted the name Assotto Saint around this time, choosing Assotto for a ceremonial drum used in Haitian Vodou rituals and Saint for Haitian revolutionary leader Toussaint L'Ouverture.
He participated in school productions at Jamaica High School in Queens, where he graduated in 1974. He performed from 1973 to 1980 as a dancer with the Martha Graham Dance Company but stopped after an injury prevented his further participation.
In November 1980, he met Jan Holmgren, a Swedish-born musician and composer who would become both his life partner and a collaborator in his artistic work. With Holmgren, Saint founded a theatre company, Metamorphosis Theatre, and an electronic pop music group, Xotika.
He was a participant in the black gay writer's collective Other Countries and was also a poetry editor for the anthology Other Countries: Black Gay Voices in 1988, and founded Galiens Press to publish work by black gay poets.
He won a Lambda Literary Award in the Gay Poetry category at the 4th Lambda Literary Awards as editor of "The Road Before Us". He was also a nominee in the Gay Anthology category at the 5th Lambda Literary Awards for Here to Dare , and in the Gay Poetry category at the 7th Lambda Literary Awards for Wishing for Wings .
The artist never relinquished his Haitian cultural heritage. In spite of the widespread homophobia in the Haitian diasporic community, Saint felt linked to that community because of their common fights against the oppressive regime of the Haitian dictator Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier.
After Saint and Holmgren were diagnosed HIV-positive, Saint became an AIDS activist. He was aware of too many artists who went to their deaths in secrecy about their AIDS status and determined that he would be open about his struggle. He was one of the first African American activists to publicly disclose his HIV status.
The death of Holmgren profoundly affected Saint. In the three-part prose piece entitled "No More Metaphors" , the writer concludes that no words can convey his despair over the death of his partner.
Holmgren died on March 29, 1993, and Saint died on June 29, 1994 - 15 months apart, of 1994 of AIDS-related complications. Holmgren and Saint are buried alongside each other at Cemetery of the Evergreens, Brooklyn, New York.