A trip to visit ill relatives out of state is the only thing that will keep me from joining in the chorus memorializing Nat Hentoff. Below are the details, and misive from his daughter Jessica.
Here’s my earlier post about Nat.
WHAT: Memorial Celebration for Nat Hentoff
WHEN: Friday, February 24, 2017, 6:30-9:30 PM
WHERE: St. Peter’s, The Jazz Church, 619 Lexington Ave, New York, NY 10022
Nat Hentoff, iconic author, journalist and jazz critic, died January 7, 2017 at the age of 91. A memorial celebration to honor this champion for jazz, civil rights, education and civil liberties will be held on Friday, February 24, 2017 from 6:30-9:30 PM at St. Peter’s, known as the jazz church, at 619 Lexington Ave, New York, NY 10022.
Although he joked he would probably be most remembered for his jazz liner notes, Hentoff was a prolific columnist and author. Nat Hentoff was the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and an American Bar Association Silver Gavel Award. He was twice a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. For 50 years, Hentoff was a columnist for the Village Voice. In addition, his writing appeared regularly in the New Yorker, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Playboy and numerous other publications. In 1995, he received the National Press Foundation’s award for lifetime achievement in contributions to journalism. He was also a former Cato Senior Fellow. In 2004 the National Endowment for the Arts named Nat Hentoff the first recipient of the A. B. Spellman NEA Jazz Masters Award for Jazz Advocacy.
In the words of high praise used by his friend, Duke Elllington, Nat Hentoff was “beyond category.” The memorial celebration will include jazz (of course) and a panel discussion about the remarkable contributions of this passionately persistent man.
With each passing day, I keep thinking of Nat Hentoff, who died two weeks ago.
I keep thinking Nat would know what to write…
Onstage the a few nights ago at Symphony Space, emceeing a “Musicians Against Fascism” concert, I invoked Nat’s legacy and felt his presence through a sense of purpose that linked ideas, action and music.
Here’s how I began my own remembrance of Nat at The Daily Beast:
The death of Nat Hentoff at 91 on Jan. 7 was, to me, one final act of defiance.
According to his son Nicholas, Hentoff left us in the company of that which he loved dearly—surrounded by family, listening to Billie Holiday recordings.And I suppose that Hentoff, who wrote with as much passion and insight about the Constitution as he did about Holiday’s music, simply refused to stick around to see Donald Trump take the presidential oath of office.I imagined Hentoff whispering something like: “I fought against the Vietnam War. I spoke out during the Reagan administration, against George W. Bush’s Iraq invasion, and in defense of true liberalism and the Bill of Rights. This fight is yours.”
As an author, journalist, jazz critic, and civil libertarian, Hentoff’s intensity was matched by his productivity and range. He inspired me early on through his voluminous essays and books. And I was lucky. I got to know the man, who, by then, had a weathered face bordered by greying hair and beard, his piercing eyes softened only by his easy smile.
And here’s a 2004 interview I did with Nat for Wax Poetics:
Here’s the pull-quote I’d use now:
“I was an itinerant subversive from the start.”
Some of the references are dated but Nat’s messages—about music, cultural identity, fundamentalism, and the Supreme Court—are timely as ever.
Continue reading “Radicalized, Part 3: Remembering Nat Hentoff, The Itinerant Subversive”
Nat Hentoff likes to say he was an “itinerant subversive” from the beginning. Growing up in a then predominantly Jewish Roxbury neighborhood within an otherwise largely anti-Semitic Boston, he grew defiantly individual and developed a strong sense of social justice while still quite young. In his memoir, “Boston Boy,” he recalled his defining moment of rebellion at age 12—eating a large salami sandwich on Yom Kippur, a day of fasting and atonement, while sitting on his family’s porch. He enjoyed not so much “that awful sandwich” as the experience of rebellion, combined with the knowledge of “how it felt to be an outcast.”
That sentiment is amplified by a phrase from one of Hentoff’s memoirs that provides the title for a wonderful new documentary about Hentoff by director David L. Lewis: “The Pleasures of Being Out of Step.” (There’s also a companion book, published by CUNY Journalism Press.)
On the film’s website, Lewis describes the film and its subject:
Pleasures profiles legendary jazz writer and civil libertarian Nat Hentoff, whose career tracks the greatest cultural and political movements of the last 65 years. The film is about an idea as well as a man – the idea of free expression as the defining characteristic of the individual.
Hentoff is a pioneer who raised jazz as an art form and was present at the creation of ‘alternative’ journalism in this country. Pleasures wraps the themes of liberty and identity around a historical narrative that stretches from the Great Depression to the Patriot Act.
In his recent New York Times piece, Larry Rohter provided some good context: Continue reading “New Film Captures Nat Hentoff, Still Gloriously Out Of Step at 89”