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Barry Farber (1930–2020), longtime talk radio host

by Linnea Crowther

Barry Farber was a popular conservative talk radio host who had been broadcasting since 1960, most recently on CRN Digital Talk Radio.

60-year career in radio

A native of North Carolina who was based in New York, Farber got his start on the city’s WINS with the show “Barry Farber’s Open Mike” in 1960. He later became a staple of WOR radio as well as WMCA and the ABC Radio Network, while in the 21st century he broadcast on Talk Radio Network and CRN Digital Talk Radio. Farber became known for his Southern drawl, his conservative views, and his love for learning languages – he reportedly studied more than 25. His broadcasts were also memorable for his interviews of notable people including Alfred Hitchcock (1899 – 1980), Shelley Winters (1920 – 2006), and his first-ever celebrity interview, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929 – 1968). Farber continued his radio show until he became ill in recent years, with his last on-air appearance on the day before he died as fans celebrated his 90th birthday with a special broadcast on CRN. A member of the National Radio Hall of Fame, Farber was named the 9th greatest talk radio host of all time by Talkers magazine.

Political aspirations

An outspoken political conservative with occasional leftist leanings on topics like racial injustice, Farber twice ran for office, first in 1970 when he sought election to Congress. He was running in a traditionally Democratic district against feminist leader Bella Abzug (1920 – 1998), and though he ultimately lost, he gave Abzug a tough race to win and only yielded 52% of the vote to her. In 1977, Farber tried politics again, running for mayor of New York City. After losing the Republican nomination, he ran with the Conservative Party, losing to three-term Mayor Ed Koch (1924 – 2013).

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Farber on his approach to learning languages

“I’m a student of 26 languages now. About half are languages that I date, and half are languages that I marry. By languages I date, I mean no grammar and no script, languages like Bengali. We have an influx of new languages in New York City since I came here. And I want to learn enough to carry on a conversation just by ‘dating’ – no grammar, no attempt to learn the language, just to learn how to say things… The languages you marry, you get a grammar book, you get a dictionary, you get cassettes, you get flash cards, et cetera.” —from a 2005 interview with Keith Law

What people said about him

Full obituary: The New York Times

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