Saturday, November 1, 2008

Day of the Dead, Studs Terkel edition

Studs Terkel died yesterday, Oct. 31, at a ripe 96 years old. Terkel was a genius of 20th century journalism, working for decades in television and radio before publishing his first book in 1967 at the age of 55. That book, "Giants of Jazz," was a collection of radio interviews with Louis Armstrong, John Coltrane, Billie Holiday, Duke Ellington and Charlie Parker. He explored that technique for the next 40 years, interviewing working people, immigrants, prostitutes, soldiers and countless ordinary Americans in books like the Depression-era memoir "Hard Times," a chronicle of the 1970's labor force "Working" and "The Good War," remembrances of World War II.

In an interview in the 1990's, Terkel said "I think of myself as an old-time craftsman...I've been doing this five days a week, for more than 30 years. When I realize the work is slipping, I'll quit. But I don't think I've reached that point yet. I still have my enthusiasm. I still love what I do."

Terkel worked until his last breath. Found at his bedside was a manuscript of his latest book, "P.S. Further Thoughts From a Lifetime of Listening," scheduled for release later this month.

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