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Stanley Crouch (1945–2020), cultural critic and author

by Linnea Crowther

Stanley Crouch was an author and cultural critic known for his jazz criticism as well as for his biography of Charlie Parker.

Controversial criticism

Crouch was a jazz drummer in his youth, a founder of the combo Black Music Infinity. Later admitting that “The problem was that I couldn’t really play,” Crouch turned to writing about jazz rather than performing it, writing for JazzTimes and publishing the acclaimed 2013 biography “Kansas City Lightning: The Rise and Times of Charlie Parker.” Also a staff writer for the Village Voice as well as a columnist for the New York Daily News and other publications, Crouch invited controversy with his opinions on American culture. These included his hatred for rap music and his disdain for some Black cultural figures, including Toni Morrison (1931 – 2019), Malcolm X (1925 –1965), and Spike Lee. Crouch was a co-founder and artistic consultant for Jazz at Lincoln Center, and he was featured in Ken Burns’ 2001 documentary “Jazz,” for which he was a senior creative consultant. He was honored with a MacArthur Foundation Genius Grant and the 2016 Windham-Campbell Literature Prize for nonfiction. Crouch wrote one novel, 2000’s “Don’t the Moon Look Lonesome?”

Notable quote

Crouch didn’t like the term “African-American,” and he explained this dislike in a 1995 interview with the Baltimore Sun: “I use Negro, black American, Afro-American. And I might throw brown American in eventually. I don’t use African-American because I have friends who are from Africa. But I do use Afro-American, because that means it’s derived but it’s not direct.”


Tributes to Stanley Crouch

Full obituary: The New York Times

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