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Obit: Music Critic Nat Hentoff (1925-2017)

pdq 08 Jan 17 - 09:07 AM
Thomas Stern 08 Jan 17 - 10:50 AM
Jack Campin 08 Jan 17 - 10:55 AM
Stilly River Sage 08 Jan 17 - 11:02 AM
pdq 08 Jan 17 - 11:23 AM
gillymor 08 Jan 17 - 12:40 PM
keberoxu 08 Jan 17 - 01:11 PM
fat B****rd 08 Jan 17 - 01:33 PM
Stilly River Sage 08 Jan 17 - 02:24 PM
Joe Offer 08 Jan 17 - 05:22 PM
Joe_F 08 Jan 17 - 06:39 PM
GUEST 08 Jan 17 - 06:46 PM
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Subject: Obit: Nat Hentoff, the last honest liberal
From: pdq
Date: 08 Jan 17 - 09:07 AM

Nat Hentoff, the last honest liberal

By Clay Waters
web posted April 1999

The columnist has championed a woman rejected from law school for being white. He has defended a police chaplain fired for saying "fag," and been shouted down by pro-choice feminists at a pro-life rally. He's quoted approvingly a charter school founder saying that only when racial categorization is stopped can there be "true equal protection of the laws." And he quit the ACLU in protest of their position against revealing the results of HIV tests on newborns. By the way, he's a life-long leftist who has written for the Village Voice since the 1960s.

He's Nat Hentoff. And with virtually every bit of the counter-culture weekly paper now infected with drab politics, the paper is worth reading chiefly for its comprehensive club listings and for Hentoff's column, which consistently flouts his readership's conventions.

Greenwich Villager Hentoff, now 73, was friend of the late Malcolm X, has authored several books on jazz and wrote the liner notes for Bob Dylan's second album. He's a freewheelin' man who has angered about every political faction around, including his own Voice editors. He is no elitist. In the past he's called into a talk show hosted by Oliver North (Rush Limbaugh was the guest) to agree with them on liberal intolerance for free speech. Recently he appeared on Matt Drudge's Fox television show to discuss Clinton's depravity. He's made common cause with the libertarian Cato Institute against the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO). "I just want to go where my fans are," he said in a brief phone interview. "I prefer not preaching to the choir."

Hentoff has been set against Clinton ever since the '92 campaign, when the then-Arkansas governor left the campaign trail in New Hampshire to supervise the execution of convicted murderer Ricky Ray Rector, a retarded man who arguably was not responsible for his actions. He condemns Clinton not so much for his sex life (although for an alleged liberal, Hentoff writes rather sympathetically for Paula Jones), but that "Clinton has done more harm to the constitution than any president in American history."

He fumes at liberals for sticking up for a president he considers "a serial violator of our liberties," pointing to the Anti-Terrorism Act of 1996, "which so greatly cut down [habeas corpus] that innocent people on death row will be executed for years to come."

In the wake of the Matthew Shepard murder, he refused to join the law-and- order about-face made by liberal activists and instead attacked the resulting proposals of hate-crime legislation as unconstitutional. He's stuck to his civil libertarian principles, even when more and more often he makes points that bring joy to conservatives.

Hentoff's two weekly columns, one in the Voice and one in the Saturday Washington Post, are among the few outlets to take the Kathleen Willey story seriously. Hentoff has also informed his no-doubt seething readership about Clinton's more obscure alleged dalliances, like the former Miss Arkansas Elizabeth Ward Gracen. He devoted an entire column to Juanita Broaddrick weeks before the Wall Street Journal vaulted her 20 year-old allegations of sexual assault by Clinton into the mainstream press. He wrote acidly of a pro-Clinton New York Times piece where the author "ignores the series of women who have been threatened by Clinton and his agents to keep their silence about his exercising his droit du seigneur on their bodies." He has even accused Clinton of committing war crimes, an area of attack from which elected Republicans flinch. "And where were these former anti-Vietnam War protesters when Clinton killed innocent civilians in Iraq as he tried to delay impeachment?"

In other articles, a spiritual side comes through. Hentoff is pro-life, and in 1992 he wrote his most famous apostasy with the left, "Pro-Choice Bigots," for the New Republic. In it he lamented Jesse Jackson's lapsed pro-life stand and ripped into the hypocrisy of a Democratic party that speaks of tolerance but brooks no dissent on the abortion issue. He noted that some Voice colleagues stopped speaking to him after he first came out against "the annual killing of 1.6 million developing human beings." When I referred to him half-jokingly as an atheist Catholic, he replied dryly, "atheist will do."

His most emotionally wrenching column had to do with a related life and death matter. A father who murdered his 12-year-old daughter Tracy had his sentence commuted at the urging of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (a Canadian equivalent of the ACLU). After all, the girl had a severe case of cerebral palsy and suffered acute pain-thus making it a mercy killing.

Hentoff bashes the ACLU for its support of legalizing assisted suicide-"ignoring its effects on the severely disabled for whom that fatal decision would be made." Columns like this show a generosity of spirit often lacking in the "party of compassion." Hentoff told me he considers himself a "lowercase libertarian."

With most self-proclaimed liberals having thrown in with Clinton, he can't call himself a liberal any more. He sounds suspiciously Reaganite when he says, "the Democratic Party has left me." On drug legalization he's to the right of many conservatives of libertarian persuasion, saying, "The drug war in this country is a terrible offense. But legalizing is not as simple as people think."

He is still capable of lapsing into lazy liberal snottiness, as when he sneeringly dismissed House Whip Tom Delay as "a professional          exterminator of rodents before he entered public life," a meaningless tidbit that holds a peculiar fascination for liberals. But Hentoff generally strikes a more dour, long-suffering Jimmy Carter-like pose of integrity. If he's not the most easy- going companion, his opinions are innocent of the cardinal sin of the day, hypocrisy.

In response to a column by Anthony Lewis of the New York Times attacking Congressman Bob Barr, Hentoff answered with one praising the oft-maligned Barr's civil liberties record. He pointed out Barr was the sole voice on the House floor to speak out against the Clinton administration plan of "roving wiretaps." Though Barr is accused by Lewis and others of knowingly addressing a racist group (the Council of Conservative Citizens), Hentoff took Barr at his word that he had no knowledge of the group's stand, and suggested he was being attacked by the media for his politics.
When I innocently brought up the "bouquet he had tossed Barr," Hentoff mistakenly though I was being dismissive of his column and scorched me.

"That's a really stupid question, if you don't mind me saying. I've got every liberal complaining about that story….Bob Barr has a very good record on privacy. The ACLU volunteered that information. I later found out, after I wrote the column, that when he was a U.S. attorney in Georgia he prosecuted successfully charges of police brutality and white racist groups."

In the midst of Hentoff's verbal onslaught, I couldn't help smile at the irony of a veteran Village Voice columnist berating me for what he thought was my lack of belief in the honor of...conservative Congressman Bob Barr. When it comes to civil liberties -- everyone's civil liberties -- Nat Hentoff is no atheist.

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Subject: RE: Obit: Nat Hentoff
From: Thomas Stern
Date: 08 Jan 17 - 10:50 AM

New York Times obit

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Subject: RE: Obit: Nat Hentoff
From: Jack Campin
Date: 08 Jan 17 - 10:55 AM

Some obituary, saying we should all love him because he was a reactionary twat on pretty near every issue anyone's heard of.

Did he have any redeeming qualities?

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Subject: RE: Obit: Nat Hentoff
From: Stilly River Sage
Date: 08 Jan 17 - 11:02 AM

Music seems to have been a very small part of this fellow's claim to fame.

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Subject: RE: Obit: Nat Hentoff
From: pdq
Date: 08 Jan 17 - 11:23 AM

Nat Hentof was the "jazz critic" for the Village Voice for over 50 years.

He was (most likely) the foremost jazz expert of all time.

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Subject: RE: Obit: Nat Hentoff
From: gillymor
Date: 08 Jan 17 - 12:40 PM

To me he was hard to follow politically but he was among my favorite writers on jazz. RIP

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Subject: RE: Obit: Nat Hentoff
From: keberoxu
Date: 08 Jan 17 - 01:11 PM

What does one find if one digs a little bit deeper? Not much deeper, just a little?

I went over to Advanced Book Exchange, a/k/a Abebooks website, to see what kind of titles might be out of print and floating about second-hand with Nat Hentoff as the author. Here's a quick list of the titles pertaining only to music, and it will omit some titles at that.

Nat Hentoff: Journey into Jazz, New York: Coward McCann, 1968.
Hentoff's Jazz for Children. Story of a boy who learns about jazz. First performed on television by the New York Philharmonic, with Leonard Bernstein conducting and narrating. 48 pages with illustrations.

edited by Nat Hentoff and Nat Shapiro: Hear Me Talkin' To Ya:
The Story of Jazz by the Men who Made it. New York: Rinehart and Co., 1955.
This amazing book is full of stories by Kid Ory, Bunk Johnson, Joe Oliver, Louis Armstrong, Clarence Williams, Jelly Roll Morton, Fletcher Henderson, W. C. Handy, Fats Waller, Ethel Waters, Benny Goodman, Billie Holiday, Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie and many others.
An autographed first edition hardcover copy of this book is selling online for $182.

Text by Nat Hentoff, photography by Dennis Stock:
Jazz Street: A Photographic Exploration into the World of Jazz. Garden City: Doubleday, 1959.
130 pages of photographic plates, 63 pages of commentary [text].

Nat Hentoff: At the Jazz Band Ball: Sixty Years on the Jazz Scene. University of California Press, 2010.

Nat Hentoff: Jazz Is. Mass Market paperback: Avon, 1978.
Duke Ellington, Billie Holiday, Louis Armstrong, Teddy Wilson, Gerry Mulligan, Miles Davis, Charles Mingus, Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, Cecil Taylor, and Gato Barbieri.

Nat Hentoff: Boston Boy: Growing Up With Jazz and Other Rebellious Passions. Paul Dry Books, 2001.

Nat Hentoff: American Music Is. Da Capo Press, 2004.

Nat Hentoff: Listen to the Stories: Nat Hentoff on Jazz and Country Music. Harper Collins, 1995.

Nat Hentoff: The Jazz Life. Dial, 1961.
Profiles of Charles Mingus, John Lewis, Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, and Ornette Coleman.
Blurb says: "Nat Hentoff is the co-editor of the Jazz Review." What was that?

Miles Davis: The Columbia Years. (this set of recordings is cassette tapes) CBS Records, Inc., 1988.
"Tapes are accompanied by a 21-page booklet with text by jazz historian Nat Hentoff."

Volume 2, issue 2. The Jazz Review. Village Station: Jazz Review Inc., February 1959.
Edited by Nat Hentoff and Martin Williams.
Includes: "Garvin Bushell and Jazz in the 1920's" by Nat Hentoff.

I'm too lazy to go on. How's that for starters....

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Subject: RE: Obit: Nat Hentoff
From: fat B****rd
Date: 08 Jan 17 - 01:33 PM

I read The Jazz life and Hear Me Talkin' To Ya years ago and recall enjoying both of them. RIP Mr. Hentoff

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Subject: RE: Obit: Nat Hentoff
From: Stilly River Sage
Date: 08 Jan 17 - 02:24 PM

It's popping up on my facebook page now - that first article posted wasn't very helpful in establishing his music cred.

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Subject: RE: Obit: Music Critic Nat Hentoff (1925-2017)
From: Joe Offer
Date: 08 Jan 17 - 05:22 PM

Yeah, it was a bit deceptive to begin a 2017 obituary with a 1999 article that more-or-less emphasizes the fact that the guy didn't like Bill Clinton or 1990s Clinton Democrats. I didn't like Bill Clinton, either. He privatized my government job and turned me into a no-good folk musician.

But's that's Nat's political side. He joined Down Beat Magazine as a columnist in 1952. My uncle read that magazine religiously, and I thought it was the coolest magazine ever published.
Most notably, he was the jazz critic for the Village Voice from 1958 to 2009 - and then the Village Voice laid him off, after 50 years. I wonder why they did that. Me moved his column to the Wall Street Journal, which published the column until his death.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Music Critic Nat Hentoff (1925-2017)
From: Joe_F
Date: 08 Jan 17 - 06:39 PM

Excommunicated by Jews! He's in good company: So was Baruch Spinoza.

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Subject: RE: Obit: Music Critic Nat Hentoff (1925-2017)
Date: 08 Jan 17 - 06:46 PM

I am so glad to see this back above the line. Nat Hentoff was a giant among music critics and contributed a great deal to our knowledge and appreciation of Jazz. contrary to some options, music was not a small part of his claim to fame. For him music was the core of his being and he enriched many people with his knowledge and reverence for it. As for his politics, he was a classic " liberal" for most of his life, neither reactionary nor a twat, just a politically thoughtful man who also loved music!
Thank you to whoever put him above the line, where he rightfully belongs.

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