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Jayson Greene

[Conway ]

(b Escondido, CA, Dec 13, 1948; d New York, NY, April 30, 1982). American rock critic. Bangs’s parents were devout Jehovah’s Witnesses; he was raised mostly by his mother after his father died in a house fire in 1955. Bangs began writing freelance reviews for Rolling Stone magazine in 1969, and would go on to write for Creem, The Village Voice, Penthouse, Playboy, New Musical Express, and many others. He wrote a 1980 book on the new-wave act Blondie and co-authored, with Paul Nelson, a biography of Rod Stewart, but the published works for which he is best known remain the two posthumous anthologies of his rock criticism: Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung (New York, 1987), edited by Greil Marcus; and Mainlines, Blood Feasts, and Bad Taste (New York, 2003), edited by John Morthland.

Bangs was inspired by the drug-fueled stream- of-consciousness style of Beat poets like William S. Burroughs and the confrontational, subjective New Journalism of Hunter S. Thompson and Tom Wolfe. Alongside John Mendelssohn, Nick Tosches, and Richard Meltzer, Bangs was grouped into the subset of early rock critics dubbed “the Noise Boys,” whose wild, digressive, slang-filled style contrasted with the more sober, academic approach of Greil Marcus and Robert Christgau. Bangs was an advocate of what would come to be called “punk rock,” celebrating its return to the raw, amateur spirit that defined the earliest rock ’n’ roll. He wrote critical pieces on many of the scene’s seminal acts, including The Ramones, Iggy and the Stooges, and the Velvet Underground. “I finally realized that grossness was the truest criterion for rock ’n’ roll, the cruder the clang and grind the more fun and longer listened-to the album would be,” Bangs wrote, and his prose aspired towards the same energy. Bangs died from respiratory and pulmonary complications related to the ingestion of Darvon....

Article

Jayson Greene

(b New York, NY, April 18, 1942). American rock critic. Known as “the dean of American rock critics,” Christgau first emerged as one of the trade’s earliest professionals. Beginning in 1967 as the music columnist for Esquire, Christgau worked briefly at the Village Voice and Newsday as a critic before beginning his 37-year tenure as music editor of the Village Voice in 1974. During this time, Christgau mentored dozens of critics and established the Voice as a widely acknowledged home for serious rock criticism. He also inaugurated, in 1971, the annual Pazz & Jop music poll, which compiles the “top ten” lists submitted by music critics nationwide.

Christgau is perhaps best known for his capsule reviews, which have been published since 1969 in his Consumer Guide columns. Dry, witty, terse, and densely packed with allusions and asides, Christgau’s blurbs, accompanied by assigned letter grades, promoted a persuasive style of serious, incisive criticism of rock music; many of his reviews have been reprinted in popular book-length compilations. He was an early supporter of the hip-hop and riot grrrl movements and an avid proponent of African popular music. Few rock critics have established such a national presence and identity. Rock musicians ranging from Lou Reed of the Velvet Underground to Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth have name-checked him in song....

Article

Marysol Quevedo

[Catalino ]

(b Guayama, PR, Feb 12, 1926; d Baltimore, MD, Aug 5, 2003). Puerto Rican songwriter and journalist. He studied sociology and journalism at the Universidad de Puerto Rico. In 1960 he moved to New York, where he worked as a sports journalist for the newspaper La Prensa. He had an affinity for songwriting from his teens and continued to write songs throughout his career; it had become his main activity by the time the salsa singer Joe Quijano recorded his song “Efectivamente” (Volví a Cataño, Spanoramic, 1965). Curet Alonso developed a style featuring romantic as well as socially conscious lyrics, which at times delivered politically charged messages. He described a series of compositions from the 1970s, which told the stories of everyday people of marginalized neighborhoods, as corte social (“social edge”). He collaborated with many musicians, writing hit songs for influential salsa singers, including Roberto Roena, Willie Colón, Héctor Lavoe, and Cheo Feliciano. Although mostly known for his salsa compositions he also worked in other Latin American genres, notably the Puerto Rican ...

Article

Alex Harris Stein

(John )

(b Philadelphia, PA, Aug 30, 1946). American writer on jazz. He began listening to jazz while attending high school in North Philadelphia and consolidated and expanded his interest while attending Temple University (1964–9). He was jazz editor for Musician (1982–5), a columnist at the Philadelphia Inquirer (1982–96), a contributor to the Boston Phoenix (1983–6), staff writer for 7 Days (1988–90), and has been a contributing editor for The Atlantic Monthly (from 1984). He was a columnist for the Village Voice (1990–4) and was appointed lead jazz critic there in 2004. Davis was the target of critic Stanley Crouch’s controversial Jazz Times column, “Putting the White Man in Charge,” (April 2003). He has also contributed to Stereo Review, Down Beat, and Jazz Times. Davis has written six books; another, a biography of John Coltrane, is in progress....

Article

Jack Hamilton

(b Jersey City, NJ, Sept 2, 1964). American rock critic. Best known as the longtime popular music critic for the Chicago Sun-Times, DeRogatis began writing music criticism as a high school student in Jersey City, New Jersey. In 1982, his senior year, he conducted the last known interview with renowned rock critic Lester Bangs, whose biography DeRogatis would later author. DeRogatis attended New York University and began writing for the Sun-Times in 1992. In 1995 he left the paper for a position at Rolling Stone magazine but was fired within a year after making public a dispute with publisher Jann Wenner over a negative review that the magazine declined to run. DeRogatis returned to the Sun-Times in 1998, where he remained until accepting a position in the English Department at Columbia College (Chicago) in spring of 2010.

An opinionated and high-profile critic, DeRogatis has been at the center of several notable controversies. The most infamous case came in ...

Article

Gerald Bordman

revised by Jonas Westover

(b New York, NY, Sept 8, 1896; d New York, NY, July 30, 1983). American lyricist and librettist. He studied at Columbia University, where he was a contemporary of Lorenz Hart and Oscar Hammerstein II, and served in the US Navy before becoming director of publicity and advertising in 1919 for the Goldwyn Pictures Corporation (from 1924 known as Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer or MGM). He wrote verse in his spare time, and was asked by Jerome Kern to supply the lyrics for Dear Sir (1924). He also worked with Vernon Duke, Jimmy McHugh, and Ralph Rainger. But he is best remembered for the numerous songs he wrote in collaboration with arthur Schwartz , beginning in 1929 with the revue The Little Show (with “I guess I’ll have to change my plan”). Other collaborations with Schwartz include Three’s a Crowd (1930) and The Band Wagon (1931, containing the hit “Dancing in the Dark”). Their professional relationship extended over a period of more than 30 years to the production of the musical ...

Article

Jayson Greene

(b Alameda, CA, Jan 7, 1945). American rock journalist, author, and broadcaster. His father, born Fong Kwok Seung, changed his surname to Torres and posed as a Filipino in order to immigrate to the United States and sidestep the Chinese Exclusion Act. The family subsequently adopted the surname Fong-Torres. Ben Fong-Torres studied radio, television and film at San Francisco State University (BA 1966). He worked as a writer and senior editor for Rolling Stone, coming on board in 1969, shortly after the magazine’s inception, and staying until 1981. During his tenure, he conducted interviews with Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones, Linda Ronstadt, Marvin Gaye, Jefferson Airplane, Sly and the Family Stone, Paul McCartney, Bonnie Raitt, Steve Martin, and many others. His interview with Ray Charles received the Deems Taylor Award for Magazine Writing in 1974. Fong-Torres was also a DJ for San Francisco rock station KSAN-FM from ...

Article

Caroline Polk O’Meara

[Jones, Alexander Roger Wallace ]

(b New York, NY, 1967). American musician and writer. Frere-Jones has performed with his band Ui since the early 1990s, when he also began writing about music for publications including the Village Voice, New York Times, and Spin. Since 2004 he has been the pop music critic at The New Yorker. His columns often cover popular musicians, but he has also been an early champion of many lesser-known groups from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs to the Sleigh Bells. His experience as a professional musician shines in his authorial voice; he writes accessibly and in depth about musical content. Frere-Jones’s controversial 2007 New Yorker article, “A Paler Shade of White,” produced a large amount of support and criticism in the press. The wide-ranging article began with him mourning the absence of African American music traditions in indie rock (centering on the group Arcade Fire) before addressing the question of musical miscegenation, which he claims is sadly absent in most current rock music. Frere-Jones’s clever quips are frequently quoted in the work of other writers, making him something of a critic’s critic....

Article

Jayson Greene

(b Philadelphia, PA, June 4, 1952). American music writer. Fricke studied English at Muhlenberg College, Allentown, Pennsylvania (BA 1973). He worked as a writer, DJ, and publicist for the legendary local club the Main Point in Philadelphia before moving to New York in 1978. Prior to joining Rolling Stone, he served as an editor at the Long Island weekly Good Times and as a staff writer for the rock magazine Circus. In 1980 he became the American correspondent for the British music weekly Melody Maker, a position he held for nearly two decades.

Fricke’s first Rolling Stone album review was published in 1979; he was hired as a full-time staff member in 1985. In 1992 he was made Music Editor and then assumed his current position as Senior Writer three years later. He maintained a column, known as Fricke’s Picks, for nearly twenty years. In his countless reviews, magazine features, CD and box-set liner notes, Fricke has written about garage and classic rock, American blues, punk, and its various offshoots with boundless enthusiasm, keen-eared discernment, and a colorful, eye-grabbing prose style. He has appeared on numerous episodes of the VH1-aired ...

Article

Daphne G. Carr

(b Sussex, England, June 25, 1946). British popular music scholar and critic. Frith is a foundational figure in intellectual inquiry on popular music since his first book, The Sociology of Rock (1978). His scholarly work has influenced the terrain of cultural studies in the study of popular music, beginning with mass culture, media, criticism, consumption, leisure, and youth; moving to questions of “authenticity,” taste, cultural hierarchy, and legitimacy; record production and producers; questions of copyright and public policy; and historical accounts of local scenes and live music. Frith has written a number of influential general texts on popular music, co-edited numerous foundational anthologies, educated several generations of British pop scholars, and served as a prominent public intellectual on popular music as culture. Frith was a founding member of International Association for the Study of Popular Music and a founding editor of the journal Popular Music (...