Nathan Irving "Nat" Hentoff (June 10, 1925 – January 7, 2017) was an American historian, novelist, jazz and country music critic, and syndicated columnist for United Media. Hentoff was the jazz critic for The Village Voice from 1958 to 2009. Following his departure from The Village Voice, Hentoff moved his music column to The Wall Street Journal, which published his work until his death. He often wrote on First Amendment issues, vigorously defending the freedom of the press.
|Born||Nathan Irving Hentoff
June 10, 1925
Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.
|Died||January 7, 2017
New York, New York, U.S.
|Occupation||Columnist, historian, novelist, music critic|
|Spouse(s)||Miriam Sargent (m. 1950; divorced)
Trudi Bernstein (1954–1959; divorced; 2 children)
Margot Goodman (1959–2017 his death; 2 children)
Hentoff was formerly a columnist for: Down Beat, JazzTimes, Legal Times, The Washington Post, The Washington Times, The Progressive, Editor & Publisher and Free Inquiry. He was a staff writer for The New Yorker, and his writing was also published in: The New York Times, Jewish World Review, The Atlantic, The New Republic, Commonweal and in the Italian Enciclopedia dello Spettacolo.
Hentoff was born into a Jewish family in Boston, Massachusetts on June 10, 1925, the son of Lena (née Katzenberg) and Simon Hentoff. As a teen, he attended Boston Latin School and worked for Frances Sweeney on the Boston City Reporter, investigating antisemitic hate groups. Sweeney was a major influence on Hentoff; his memoir, Boston Boy, is dedicated to her. He was awarded his B.A. with the highest honors from Northeastern University and did graduate work at Harvard University. In 1950, he was a Fulbright fellow at the Sorbonne in Paris.
Hentoff began his career in broadcast journalism while also hosting a weekly jazz program on WMEX, a Boston radio station. In the 1940s, he hosted two radio shows on WMEX: JazzAlbum and From Bach To Bartók. He continued to present a jazz program on WMEX into the early 1950s, and during that period was an announcer on the program Evolution of Jazz on WGBH-FM. By the late 1950s, he was co-hosting the program The Scope of Jazz on WBAI-FM in New York City. He went on to write many books on jazz and politics.
In 1952, Hentoff joined Down Beat magazine as a columnist, and from 1953 through 1957, he was an associate editor. He was fired in 1957 allegedly for trying to hire an African-American writer.
Hentoff co-authored Hear Me Talkin' to Ya: The Story of Jazz by the Men Who Made It (1955) with Nat Shapiro. The book features interviews with jazz musicians such as Dizzy Gillespie and Duke Ellington. Hentoff co-founded The Jazz Review in 1958, a magazine that he co-edited with Martin Williams until 1961. In 1960, he served as the A&R director of the short-lived jazz label Candid Records, which released albums by Charles Mingus, Cecil Taylor and Max Roach, among others.
In 2002, Hentoff became a member of the Board of Directors of The Jazz Foundation of America, and worked to help many American jazz and blues musicians in need, including housing and employing over one thousand musicians who survived Hurricane Katrina. Hentoff wrote many articles to draw attention to the plight of America's pioneering jazz and blues musicians, which were published in the Wall Street Journal and the Village Voice.
Beginning in February 2008, Hentoff was a weekly contributing columnist at WorldNetDaily.com. In January 2009, the Village Voice, which had regularly published Hentoff's commentary and criticism for fifty years, announced that he had been laid off. In February 2009, Hentoff joined the libertarian Cato Institute as a senior fellow.
In 2013, a biographical film about Hentoff, entitled The Pleasures of Being Out of Step explored his career in jazz and as a First Amendment advocate. The independent documentary, directed by David L. Lewis, won the Grand Jury prize in the Metropolis competition at the DOC NYC festival and played in theaters across the country.
Hentoff was known as a civil libertarian, free speech activist, anti-death penalty advocate and anti-abortion advocate. He supported the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and the State of Israel. Hentoff espoused generally liberal views on domestic policy and civil liberties, but in the 1980s, he began articulating more socially conservative positions—opposition to abortion, voluntary euthanasia, and the selective medical treatment of severely disabled infants. Hentoff argued that a consistent life ethic should be the viewpoint of a genuine civil libertarian, arguing that all human rights are at risk when the rights of any one group of people are diminished, that human rights are interconnected, and people deny others' human rights at their peril.
While at one time a long-time supporter of the American Civil Liberties Union, Hentoff became a vocal critic of the organization in 1999 for its advocacy of government-enforced university and workplace speech codes. He served on the board of advisors for the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, another civil liberties group. Hentoff's book Free Speech for Me—But Not for Thee outlines his views on free speech and excoriates those whom he feels favor censorship in any form.
Hentoff was critical of the Clinton Administration for the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996. He also criticized the Bush Administration for policies such as the Patriot Act and other civil liberties restrictions on the basis of homeland security. An ardent critic of the Bush administration's expansion of presidential power, in 2008 Hentoff called for the new president to deal with the "noxious residue of the Bush-Cheney war against terrorism". According to Hentoff, among the national security casualties have been "survivors, if they can be found, of CIA secret prisons ('black sites'); victims of CIA kidnapping renditions; and American citizens locked up indefinitely as 'unlawful enemy combatants'". He advocated prosecuting members of the Bush administration, including lawyer John Yoo, for war crimes.
Hentoff stated that while he had been prepared to enthusiastically support Barack Obama in the 2008 U.S. presidential election, his view changed after looking into Obama's voting record on abortion. During President Obama's first year, Hentoff praised him for ending policies of CIA renditions, but criticized him for failing to fully end George W. Bush's practice of state torture of prisoners. In a May 2014 column, titled My Pro-Constitution Choice for President, Hentoff voiced his support for Kentucky Senator Rand Paul's potential 2016 run for president. He cited Paul's support for civil liberties, particularly his stand against the indefinite detention clauses in the National Defense Authorization Act as well as his opposition to the Obama administration's use of drones against American citizens. Hentoff later rescinded his endorsement of Paul in light of the senator's support for normalizing relations with Cuba and his failure to completely repeal the Patriot Act.
Awards and honorsEdit
Hentoff was named a Guggenheim Fellow in 1972. He was awarded the American Bar Association's Silver Gavel Award in 1980 for his columns on law and criminal justice. In 1983, he was awarded the American Library Association's Imroth Award for Intellectual Freedom. He was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Laws by Northeastern University in 1985. In 1995, he was honored with the National Press Foundation's Award for lifetime distinguished contributions to journalism. In 2004, Hentoff was named one of six NEA Jazz Masters by the U.S. National Endowment for the Arts, the first non-musician to win this award. That same year, the Boston Latin School honored him as alumnus of the year. In 2005, he was honored by the Human Life Foundation at their third annual Great Defender of Life dinner.
Hentoff grew up attending an Orthodox synagogue in Boston. He recalled that as a youth, he would travel to the city with his father during the High Holidays to listen to various cantors and compare notes on their performances. He said cantors made "sacred texts compellingly clear to the heart," and he collected their recordings. In later life, Hentoff was an atheist, and has sardonically described himself as "a member of the Proud and Ancient Order of Stiff-Necked Jewish Atheists". He expressed sympathy for Israel's Peace Now movement.
Hentoff married three times, first to Miriam Sargent in 1950; the marriage was childless and the couple divorced that same year. His second wife was Trudi Bernstein, whom he married on September 2, 1954, and with whom he had two children, Jessica and Miranda. He divorced his second wife in August 1959. On August 15, 1959, he married his third wife, Margot Goodman, with whom he had two children: Nicholas and Thomas. The couple remained together until his death in 2017.
He died of natural causes at his Manhattan apartment on January 7, 2017, at the age of 91. Survivors include his wife, Margot Goodman; two sons, Nicholas and Thomas; two daughters, Jessica and Miranda; one of his stepdaughters, Mara Wolynski Nierman; a sister, Janet Krauss; and 10 grandchildren; Hugo Hentoff, Story Hentoff, Eliana Hentoff-Killian, Keaton Hentoff-Killian, Kellin Quinn, Ruby Hentoff, Caroline Nierman, Genevieve Nierman, Nina Steinberg Scherr, and Kate Steinberg.
- Hear Me Talkin' to Ya: The Story of Jazz as Told by the Men who Made it, with Nat Shapiro ISBN 978-0-486-21726-0 (1955)
- The Jazz Makers, with Nat Shapiro ISBN 0-8371-7098-2 (1957)
- The Jazz Life ISBN 0-306-80088-8 (1961)
- Peace Agitator: The Story of A. J. Muste. ISBN 0-9608096-0-0 (1963)
- The New Equality ISBN 978-0-670-00185-9 (1964)
- Our Children Are Dying (with John Holt) ISBN 978-0-939266-43-2 (1967)
- A Doctor Among the Addicts ISBN 978-0-528-81946-9 (1968)
- A Political Life: The Education of John V. Lindsay (1969)
- Journey into Jazz ISBN 978-0-698-30206-8 (1971)
- Jazz Is ISBN 978-0-7567-5045-9 (1976)
- Does Anybody Give a Damn?: Nat Hentoff on Education ISBN 978-0-394-40933-7 (Random House; 1977)
- The First Freedom: The Tumultuous History of Free Speech in America ISBN 978-0-385-29643-4 (1980)
- American Heroes: In and Out of School ISBN 978-0-385-29565-9 (1987)
- John Cardinal O'Connor: At the Storm Center of a Changing American Catholic Church. ISBN 0-684-18944-5 (1988)
- Free Speech for Me — But Not for Thee: How the American Left and Right Relentlessly Censor Each Other. ISBN 0-06-099510-6 (1993)
- Listen to the Stories: Nat Hentoff on Jazz and Country Music. ISBN 0-06-019047-7 (1995)
- Living the Bill of Rights: How to Be an Authentic American. ISBN 0-520-21981-3 (1999)
- The War on the Bill of Rights and the Gathering Resistance. ISBN 1-58322-621-4 (2004)
- American Music Is ISBN 978-0-306-81351-1 (2004)
- Jazz Country ISBN 978-0-440-94203-0 (1965)
- Call the Keeper ISBN 978-0-670-20014-6 (1966)
- Onwards! ISBN 978-0-671-20000-8(1968)
- I'm Really Dragged But Nothing Gets Me Down (1968)
- This School is Driving Me Crazy ISBN 978-0-440-98702-4 (1976)
- Does This School Have Capital Punishment? ISBN 0-435-12329-7 (1982)
- Blues for Charlie Darwin ISBN 978009465062 (1982)
- The Day They Came To Arrest The Book ISBN 978-0-440-91814-1 (1983)
- The Man from Internal Affairs ISBN 978-0-89296-141-2 (1985)
- Boston Boy: Growing Up With Jazz and Other Rebellious Passions. ISBN 0-9679675-2-X (1986)
- Speaking Freely: A Memoir ISBN 978-0-679-43647-8 (1997)
- Hear Me Talkin' to Ya: The Story of Jazz by the Men Who Made It (with Nat Shapiro) ISBN 978-0-486-21726-0 (1955)
- Black Anti-Semitism and Jewish Racism ISBN 978-0-8052-0280-9(1969)
- Jazz: New Perspectives on the History of Jazz by Twelve of the World's Foremost Jazz Critics and Scholars ISBN 0-306-80002-0 (with Albert McCarthy) (1975)
- Hentoff, Nat (7 January 2009). "Nat Hentoff's Last Column: The 50-Year Veteran Says Goodbye". Village Voice. Retrieved 8 January 2017.
- Swain, Carol (2003). Contemporary voices of white nationalism in America. Cambridge, UK New York: Cambridge University Press. p. 83. ISBN 978-0-521-01693-3. Note: this quote is from the authors' introductory essay, not from the interviews.
- McFadden, Robert D. (7 January 2017). "Nat Hentoff, Journalist and Social Commentator, Dies at 91". The New York Times. Retrieved 9 January 2017.
- "Nat Hentoff, journalist who wrote on jazz and civil liberties, dies at 91". The Washington Post. 8 January 2017. Retrieved 9 January 2017.
- Hentoff, Nat (2012). Boston Boy: Growing up with Jazz and Other Rebellious Passions. Paul Dry Books. ISBN 978-1-58988-258-4.
- "Ask the Globe". The Boston Globe. July 30, 1998.
- "Nat Hentoff". The Washington Post. 1998. Retrieved 9 January 2017.
- "Nat Hentoff". Cato Institute.
- "Nat Hentoff, Renowned Columnist and Jazz Critic, Dead at 91". Rolling Stone. 8 January 2017. Retrieved 9 January 2017.
- "Liberty legend Nat Hentoff dies at 91". WND. 7 January 2017. Retrieved 9 January 2017.
- New York Times, July 3, 1958, p. 49.
- Down Beat, February 8, 1952, p. 1.
- "America Under Barack Obama: An Interview with Nat Hentoff". The Rutherford Institute. 11 December 2009. Retrieved 9 January 2017.
- "Nat Hentoff, columnist, critic and giant of jazz writing, dies aged 91". The Guardian. 8 January 2009. Retrieved 9 January 2017.
- "Muere Nat Hentoff, histórico cronista del jazz". El Pais. 8 January 2017. Retrieved 9 January 2017.
- Jarrett, Michael (2016). Pressed for All Time: Producing the Great Jazz Albums from Louis Armstrong and Billie Holiday to Miles Davis and Diana Krall. UNC Press Books. p. xxv. ISBN 978-1-4696-3059-5.
- jazz.com. 2009-13-10. Accessed 2009-13-10. Archived.
- Hentoff, Nat. "How Jazz Helped Hasten the Civil-Rights Movement".
- Hentoff, Nat (November 14, 2006). "Keeping Jazz Musicians Alive".
- "WorldNetDaily – A Free Press for a Free People". Wnd.com. Retrieved March 3, 2011.[permanent dead link]
- "Having Writ for 50 Years, Hentoff Moves On From The Voice". The New York Times. 8 January 2009. Retrieved 9 January 2017.
- "Nat Hentoff Joins the Cato Institute". Cato.org. February 4, 2009. Retrieved March 3, 2011.
- "Home - The Pleasures of Being Out of Step".
- "We Win!", movie web site, March 1, 2014. Retrieved 2017-01-08.
- "Nat Hentoff, Memory Eternal". National Review. 7 January 2017. Retrieved 9 January 2017.
- "Nat Hentoff on Abortion". Swissnet.ai.mit.edu. Retrieved March 3, 2011.
- "ACLU better clean up its act". Jewishworldreview.com. September 20, 1999. Retrieved March 3, 2011.
- "Nat Hentoff Interview" (PDF). www.publicrecordmedia.org.
- Nat Hentoff (November 12, 2008). "Caged Citizen Will Test President Obama". Village Voice. Retrieved March 3, 2011.
- Nat Hentoff (December 3, 2008). "Obama's First 100 Days". Village Voice. Retrieved March 3, 2011.
- Nat Hentoff (January 12, 2010). "George W. Obama". Village Voice. Retrieved March 3, 2011.
- "My Pro-Constitution Choice for President", WND.com, May 20, 2014.
- "Recovering Nat Hentoff sounds off on Rand Paul", WND.com, June 28, 2015.
- "List of Guggenheim Fellows". Guggenheim Fellowship. Retrieved March 3, 2011.
- Hentoff, Nat, Listen to the Stories: Nat Hentoff on Jazz and Country Music, "About the Author" (HarperCollins 1995).
- Nat Hentoff (January 7, 2009). ""Nat Hentoff's Last Column", Village Voice, January 6, 2009". Retrieved March 3, 2011.
- Nat Hentoff, "The Soul Music of the Synagogue," The Wall Street Journal, August 24, 1985.
- Joyce, Robert W. (Fall 1999). "PLLDF Century Dinner" (PDF). The Pro-Life Legal Defense Fund Newsletter. Retrieved 3 March 2016.
- "Having Writ for 50 Years, Hentoff Moves On from The Voice", New York Times, January 6, 2009.
- Hentoff, Nat, John Cardinal O'Connor: at the Storm Center of a Changing American Catholic Church, p. 7 (Charles Scribner's Sons, 1988)
- "Nat Hentoff," in Murray Polner, American Jewish Biographies (New York: Facts on File, Inc., Lakeville Press, 1982), pp. 168–9.
- Laurie Collier, Joyce Nakamura, eds. (1993). Major Authors and Illustrators for Children and Young Adults: A Selection of Sketches from Something about the Author. 3. Gale Research. p. 1101. ISBN 978-0-8103-7384-6.
- "Nat Hentoff, a jazz critic, free speech advocate, and 'Boston Boy' memoirist, dies at 91". Boston Globe. 8 January 2017. Retrieved 9 January 2017.
- Hentoff, Nat (1987). American Heroes: In and Out of School. Delacorte Press. ISBN 978-0-385-29565-9.
- Hentoff, Nat (2004). The War on the Bill of Rights and the Gathering Resistance (illustrated, reprint ed.). Seven Stories Press. ISBN 978-1-58322-658-2.
- Hentoff, Nat (2004). American Music is (reprint ed.). Da Capo Press. ISBN 978-0-306-81351-1.
- Hentoff, Nat (1968). Onwards!: a novel. Simon and Schuster.
- Hentoff, Nat (1968). I'm really dragged but nothing gets me down. Simon & Schuster.
- Hentoff, Nat (2001). The Nat Hentoff Reader. Da Capo Press. ISBN 978-0-306-81084-8.
- Baldwin, James; Nat, Hentoff (1969). Black anti-Semitism and Jewish racism (reprint ed.). R. W. Baron.
- Hentoff, Nat; McCarthy, Albert J. (1975). Jazz: New Perspectives on the History of Jazz by Twelve of the World's Foremost Jazz Critics and Scholars (illustrated, reprint ed.). Perseus Books Group. ISBN 978-0-306-80002-3.