Nat Hentoff’s childhood hero

The topic of “childhood heroes” almost always makes a great conversation.  It is a highly personal discussion and often provides a revealing window into a person’s past and character development.  For many years, I have asked those I interview this basic question:

“Who was your childhood hero?”

The recently deceased jazz advocate and journalist Nat Hentoff was a frequent contributor to Jerry Jazz Musician, and an early admirer of the work of this website.  I had the privilege of getting to know him a little bit over the years, and interviewed him several times, as did my friend and contributing writer Paul Morris, who, during his 2001 interview with Hentoff, asked him who his childhood hero was…Here is that conversation:

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July 17th, 2018

A Moment in Time: Billie Holiday in Studio 58, New York, December 8, 1957

In Martin Torgoff’s brilliant new book Bop Apocalypse — an extensive exploration of the connections of jazz, literature and drugs, and how drugs impacted the lives and work of people like Charlie Parker, Jack Kerouac, Lester Young, William Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg — Torgoff devotes a chapter to Billie Holiday’s struggle with drug abuse, and the public airing of it when her 1956 autobiography Lady Sings the Blues was published.  

While her book had errors that have since caused critics and biographers to cast doubt on the book’s veracity, as Torgoff writes, in many respects, “the book is remarkably frank about her early years in Baltimore and her time as a prostitute.  It is also replete with information about her

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March 30th, 2017

On Nat Hentoff’s memorial service

Nat Hentoff’s memorial service was held at St. Peter’s Church in New York on Friday, February 24. Aidan Lee reported on the service for the Jazz Journalists Association, and the Village Voice — a longtime employer of Hentoff — provided an extensive photographic account of the day’s events. Click through to the next page to view a performance of pianist Joe Alterman playing Errol Garner’s “Gaslight” at the memorial

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March 1st, 2017

A memory of Nat Hentoff

Paul Morris is a longtime friend and contributing writer of Jerry Jazz Musician.  He currently writes “Cover Stories with Paul Morris,” a frequent column about classic record album art and design.

Paul shares a memory of the legendary jazz writer and journalist Nat Hentoff, who died on January 7 at the age of 91.

 

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     In the late 1970’s I was a jazz fan who liked reading about the music as much as listening to it. My next music choice often came from a recommendation from a jazz critic’s liner notes or articles. Nat Hentoff proved to be a reliable guide in his early jazz books and the occasional article. 

     These years were the heyday of the Village Voice, where Hentoff was a regular. He concentrated on First Amendment issues in his Voice column, but from time to time he would mention

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January 30th, 2017

A writer’s appreciation of Nat Hentoff — by Scott Shachter

I was eighteen when I read Nat Hentoff’s Jazz Is, and it changed my life. I’d always thought good jazz was just the crafting of pretty notes with a smooth feel. I’d never imagined it could be a “cry for justice.” Or a captivating tour through a heart lay bare. The greatest jazz goes even beyond that: the symphony of a soul freshly released and taking flight, nothing less than what Nat calls “spirit-music.”

As readers know, Nat Hentoff was far more than a jazz authority. He was a spectacular writer and a freedom-of-speech icon with no tolerance for hypocrisy. He was a great hero of

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January 11th, 2017

“Civil Liberties and Jazz — Past, Present and Future” — A 2005 Jerry Jazz Musician conversation with journalist Nat Hentoff

In honor of the great American journalist Nat Hentoff — who died yesterday at age 91 — I am publishing a 2005 interview I conducted with him as he turned 80.

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January 8th, 2017

On Nat Hentoff

I am saddened to read of the passing of journalist Nat Hentoff, who died yesterday at the age of 91. Hentoff’s work was published by the Village Voice for 50 years, and was also frequently found in the New Yorker, the Atlantic Monthly, the Wall Street Journal, and Jazz Times. He was also editor of Downbeat during the mid-1950’s. There are many obituaries available to read about Nat and his career – including Robert McFaddin’s in today’s New York Times.

As I began publishing original content on Jerry Jazz Musician in 1999, I had the privilege of having my site embraced by the three most prominent jazz writers of the time, Gary Giddins, Stanley Crouch, and Nat Hentoff. All three of them got involved in Jerry Jazz Musician in their own way.

Giddins — who I was able to catch up with during a recent trip I took to New York — and I developed an interview series called

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January 8th, 2017

“We Insist” on the healing powers of music

In the wake of the recent horrifying and consequential days in America’s history, like always, we can turn to the healing power of music.

In 1960, when spontaneous sit-in protests by African-American students in Greensboro, North Carolina led to the involvement of Martin Luther King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference and the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), the jazz and cultural critic Nat Hentoff wrote that “Negroes throughout the country – and many whites – were surprised and stimulated by the effectiveness of these direct, mass action, nonviolent techniques.”

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July 12th, 2016

Revisiting the 1964 Playboy panel “Jazz — Today and Tomorrow”

For those of us who bought it “for the articles,” it was easy to see that few publications supported and promoted jazz music during the 50’s and 60s quite like Playboy magazine. Among its many endeavors involving jazz, Playboy, Inc. produced festivals and concerts, featured artists on its late-night television programs, invited readers to vote for their favorite performers by instrument, and released record albums. The music was a passion of founder Hugh Hefner,who found that its aesthetic fit in well with those of other “products” pitched to the sophisticated and elite male of the era. Jazz conversations were often found within the pages — the first of the now famous Playboy interviews featured Miles Davis in a 1962 conversation with a young Alex Haley.

In February, 1964, Playboy published a remarkable conversation on jazz. Hosted by journalist Nat Hentoff, “The Playboy Panel: Jazz — Today and Tomorrow” included the musicians

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January 28th, 2015

Liner Notes — We Insist! Max Roach’s Freedom Now Suite, by Nat Hentoff

Thanks to this week’s public airing of the racist thoughts attributed to Donald Sterling — the Neanderthal owner of the Los Angeles Clippers — bigotry, hatred and ignorance have been on full display this week. Sterling’s discussion with his equally insipid companion is most obviously insulting and hurtful to African Americans, but it is also abhorrent to everyone who had the courage to challenge the thinking of fellow members of the boomer generation — as well as (and especially) those in our parents’ generation — who grew up in a world of segregation, taking part in or witnessing the insensitivity and bigotry that is a product of it on a daily basis.

At times like this it is helpful to be reminded of moments in our history when heroic community leaders and artists encouraged our society to rise above the Donald Sterling’s of the world

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April 30th, 2014

Reminiscing in Tempo: Memories and Opinion, Volume Fourteen — Who was your childhood hero?

“Reminiscing in Tempo” is part of a continuing effort to provide Jerry Jazz Musician readers with unique forms of “edu-tainment.” As often as possible, Jerry Jazz Musician poses one question via e mail to a small number of prominent and diverse people. The question is designed to provoke a lively response that will potentially include the memories and/or opinion of those solicited.

This edition’s question is “Who was your childhood hero?” Participants include Gary Burton, Pat Martino, Gary Giddins, Nat Hentoff, and others.

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January 16th, 2014

An Online Story of Jazz in New Orleans – Introduction

Featuring the complete text of chapters 1 – 5 from ‘Hear Me Talkin’ To Ya: The Story of Jazz As Told By the Men Who Made It,” a 1955 book by Nat Shapiro and Nat Hentoff

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March 26th, 2013

In This Issue

This issue features an interview with Bing Crosby biographer Gary Giddins; a collection of poetry devoted to the World War II era; and a new edition of “Reminiscing in Tempo,” in which the question “What are 3 or 4 of your favorite jazz recordings of the 1940’s” is posed to Rickie Lee Jones, Chick Corea, Tom Piazza and others.

Features

In this edition of Reminiscing in Tempo,, Chick Corea, Rickie Lee Jones, Tom Piazza, Gary Giddins, Randy Brecker, Michael Cuscuna, Terry Teachout and many others answer the question, “What are 3 or 4 of your favorite recordings of the 1940’s?”

Interviews

Interview with Bing Crosby biographer Gary Giddins, author of the new book "Swinging on a Star: The War Years, 1940 - 1946"

Poetry

Eight poets — John Stupp, Aurora Lewis, Michael L. Newell, Robert Nisbet, Alan Yount, Roger Singer, dan smith and Joan Donovan — write about the era of World War II

The Joys of Jazz

Award winning radio producer and host Bob Hecht shares his love of jazz through his podcasts on his site “The Joys of Jazz.” In this edition, he tells two stories; the history of the virtual anthem of World War II, “I’ll Be Seeing You,” and the friendship and musical rapport of Bing Crosby and Louis Armstrong.

Short Fiction

Hannah Draper of Ottawa, Ontario is the winner of the 49th Jerry Jazz Musician New Short Fiction Award. Her story is titled "Will You Play For Me?"

Coming Soon

Three prominent scholars in a conversation about the lives of Billie Holiday, Ralph Ellison, and Langston Hughes (pictured)

Contributing writers

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