Critic Terry Teachout has died aged 65: NPR
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One of the great cultural critics of the last half century has passed away. Terry Teachout was an acclaimed author, jazz connoisseur, dance scholar and drama critic for the the Wall Street newspaper. The newspaper reported that Teachout died Thursday at a friend’s house in Smithtown, NY. He was 65 years old.
A genius, cosmopolitan writer with a scholarly but approachable style, Teachout was born and raised near Cabin Missouri in the southeastern part of the state. He remembered growing up as the passionate musical theater son of a hardware salesman in his 1991 memoir, City limits: memories of a small town boy.
Sailing to the East Coast to begin his liberal arts studies, Teachout quickly found undergraduate life at St. John’s College in Annapolis, Md. Too stressful and himself, in his own words, too immature. He returned “to do the rest of my growth under the watchful eye of comforting, certain and omniscient eyes of the Midwest,” he wrote. He graduated from William Jewell College in Liberty, Missouri, in 1970, and made his living as a bank teller in Kansas City, playing as a jazz bassist and beginning to write jazz reviews.
Once Teachout finally arrived in Manhattan, he enjoyed insider and alien status. He was both editor-in-chief at Harper’s magazine and the founder of a New York conservative salon called Vile Body. And it regularly begins to accumulate bylines in the New York Daily News, Remark and The Washington Post and NPR, and writes acclaimed biographies of HL Mencken, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington and George Balanchine.
Nate Chinen, who writes on jazz for NPR, says he was blown away by the breadth of Teachout. “So many critics are specialists, and that’s where they get their authority,” he told NPR. “[Teachout] has been able to write with authority, insight and insight on so many styles, forms and artistic disciplines. And he did so with real clarity of opinion. “
“There was no one around who also covered jazz, rock, pop, classical music, dance, ballet, cinema, books and any other medium that came as Terry did”, Washington post music critic Tim Page added in an email to NPR. “His tastes were quite conservative but he was often persuaded and no one was more eager to change his mind. He was mostly the kind of friend you could have an argument with who always stayed in the limits of love.”
Teachout’s more conservative views weren’t always popular among his fellow art critics. “But he brought real, palpable enthusiasm,” Chinen recalls fondly. “And when you don’t agree with Terry Teachout, he welcomed the exchange, the dialogue. Especially in the age of social media, the disagreement feels like a fight, but Terry kept the spirit of critical discourse alive in the style of an old Algonquin roundtable. He really did thrive. on an exchange of ideas. “
In his blog, About Last Night, on ArtsJournal.com, and on his animated Twitter feed, Teachout has maintained this exchange. Teachout has not only written about literature, opera, politics, and his unexpected fandom of Steely Dan and avant-garde composer John Cage, but he has recounted his grief over the 2020 death of his wife. Hilary and her crying joy in a new relationship. Twitter Arts broke into mourning upon news of his death.
He was “not afraid to be human in public,” Chinen said. “This is why so many people are reacting to his loss.”