John Swenson, a veteran of rock journalism’s early years at Rolling Stone and Crawdaddy and later a chronicler of jazz, died Monday at 71 at his house in Brooklyn. He was reported to have been battling most cancers for a number of years.
Swenson began writing about music in 1967 and have become probably the most acquainted bylines in music journalism within the Seventies as he moved between not simply Rolling Stone and Crawdaddy however Creem, Circus, Zoo World, Rock World, Beetle, Sounds and the Village Voice.
His music writing later appeared in Spin, Musician, Saturday Evaluate, UPI, Reuters, Excessive Instances and Stereophile, amongst different publications. Extra not too long ago, he was a contributing author and editor for the jazz publication Offbeat, continuously writing concerning the music popping out of his beloved New Orleans, the place he had lengthy had a second house.
Virtually anybody who ever amassed a group of books about rock ‘n’ roll had Swenson’s title on the backbone of no less than one ebook of their assortment: the unique “Rolling Stone File Information,” which he put along with Dave Marsh. He additionally edited “The Rolling Stone Jazz and Blues Album Information.”
The newest of his 15 books was “New Atlantis: Musicians Battle for the Survival of New Orleans,” concerning the soul-shaking aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, revealed by Oxford College Press in 2011. Different books included biographies of the Who, the Eagles, KISS, Invoice Haley and Stevie Marvel.
The Rock’s Again Pages web site has a group of 109 of Swenson’s items, starting from a 1971 assessment of the Who for Crawdaddy and the provocatively titled “Chicago: What Do You Suppose They’ll Name Their Seventh Album?” in 1973 to his protection of Jazz Fest and related artists like Irma Thomas for Offbeat within the twenty first century.
In an appreciation for the Jazz Journalists Affiliation, author and buddy Ken Franckling described Swenson as “a mentor, colleague and buddy to legions of his friends, and he had a variety of them, having labored for mainstream wire providers and plenty of standard music magazines for many years. He was an affable, non-judgmental presence — with a hearty chuckle, untamed beard and what he referred to as the world’s largest assortment of Hawaiian shirts. He by no means drove a automobile, however was all the time completely satisfied to trip shotgun.”
Swenson was additionally a sports activities author who coated the New York Rangers for 30 years, and he coated horse racing for the New York Submit and the Each day Racing Type.
In an appreciation that appeared on Myspiltmilk.com, buddy and colleague Alex Rawls wrote, “John was a part of the primary technology of music writers within the late Nineteen Sixties and early ‘70s who tried to search out methods to write down about rock ’n’ roll that matched the power, spirit, and rebellious nature of the music. He wasn’t the stylist or the provocateur that a few of his contemporaries had been, however he constructed his profession on an genuine, deeply felt ardour for the music and the individuals who made it.”
Accolades and tales poured in on Swenson’s Fb web page.
“Maybe my favourite story about John is the one he’d inform about being within the Aqueduct pressbox and getting Mick Jagger on the cellphone for a Rolling Stone interview,” wrote racing publicist Jennie Rees. “Jagger was impressed, listening to the race name within the background. I might thereafter describe John as the one man ever to interview Mick Jagger from a racetrack pressbox.”
Fellow author Holly Gleason described him as a “raggedy, sensible, true-at all-costs author who knew music inside out, and believed one should write properly to be taken severely and have an ethical code to outline you.”
“To look at him ditty-bop Cab Calloway-style to his favourite tunes was a pleasure,” wrote leisure journalist Fred Schruers, including that Swenson was “personally form and supportive to so many, this then-sprout included.”
Music publicist Ken Weinstein wrote that “John was one of many elders who handled the younger’ns with kindness, respect, help and persistence (normally).”
Critic Wayne Robins described him as “the one music journalist I knew who might clarify the Each day Racing Type, not that his suggestions ever helped at Belmont. Critically, John’s valiant battle towards most cancers added years, perhaps even a decade, to his life, towards longer odds than any he ever parlayed in a Each day Double.”
In a 2012 interview with the San Antonio Present, Swenson talked about adjustments in music journalism since he got here to a form of fame within the Seventies. “Severe journalists aren’t being paid for his or her work in the way in which they was once,” he noed. “Sadly, we’re reaching a degree the place being a severe journalist is one thing that it’s a must to do in your spare time, whilst you have a day job. … Downsizing solely locations extra deadline stress on a author, and like all artisan writers should weigh a tough stability between velocity and excellence. Extra stress means extra errors and fewer totally realized thought. Pausing for reflection shouldn’t should be a luxurious, however sadly it has grow to be one. One benefit of on-line writing is that it may well nonetheless be edited after it’s posted. However even then it’s a must to have the time to return and give it some thought.”
Swenson didn’t consider that writing an excessive amount of concerning the technical points of music was advisable, even in jazz publications. “I feel it’s a actual fallacy for people who find themselves music college students or musicians to get too concerned within the technical a part of what they’re writing about (except, after all, they’re writing for a technical journal), as a result of the viewers just isn’t composed of musicians. So, they’re not going to know what they’re speaking about. And I see this quite a bit, notably with jazz writing, the place the writing will get to the purpose the place there are too many technical points being mentioned relatively than aesthetic points. For probably the most half, the overall viewers is occupied with aesthetics relatively than issues of approach.”
Swenson stated within the interview that “in all probability my favourite author in historical past” was the late New York Instances critic Robert Palmer, “God relaxation his soul. What an incredible thinker. Now, right here is somebody who was a musician and understood the technical points of music but additionally understood speak to a basic viewers about music and relate completely different kinds throughout the variations between the kinds. He might discuss jazz or rock or hip-hop, as a result of he did write about early hip-hop. He might just about relate any form of model to its root components. Music is music.”
Of youthful writers, Swenson stated, “I feel that greatest mistake younger writers make is to fall in love with their phrases. Writing is a job, it’s laborious work. I could have recognized just one or two writers in my lifetime who had been computerized, that might sit down and write and by no means should revise’ — and he cited Lester Bangs as one in every of them. However of that colleague, Swenson added, “Solely Lester might write like Lester. I feel it’s a giant mistake to attempt to imitate that model. Everybody has to develop their very own voice and Lester’s voice was excellent for its time. However I doubt that Lester would nonetheless be writing like that right now if he had been nonetheless round. I knew him very properly and I feel he would have gotten bored with writing that method, personally.”
Rawls wrote in his weblog publish, “I like John’s writing as a result of he might do one thing I can’t. John all the time wrote as a real believer. He processed nice music because the product of nice artists, and he needed to assist extra individuals discover and recognize their artwork. His need to make clear the individuals he felt deserved it meant that even when he wasn’t feeling properly and needed to dial again his commitments, his friendships and the artists he believed in stored him writing. He felt an obligation, as if nobody would say what wanted to be stated if he didn’t, and it will be a travesty in the event that they or their work didn’t attain a wider viewers.”
Of Swenson’s newer legacy as a author about music in his adopted metropolis, Rawls stated, “There are no less than 100 musicians in New Orleans who skilled his profound perception in them and their music.”
Swenson is survived by his spouse Barbara Mathe and his brother Edward Swenson.
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