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Stanley Crouch, a critic who saw American democracy in jazz, dies at 74

Marrying that pragmatism, he found ready opponents among fellow black Americans, whom he criticized by defining himself in racial terms and reducing the broader experience of blacks to one of victimization. He slandered gangsta rap as “‘Birth of a Nation’ with a backlash”, Reverend Al Sharpton as a “fool”, Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan as “crazy”, Nobel laureate Toni Morrison “as American as PT Barnum “and Alex Haley, the author of” Roots “, as” opportunist “.

Instead, he revered his intellectual mentors James Baldwin, Ralph Ellison, and Albert Murray, who, in his light, saw beyond the conventions of race and ideology while viewing the contributions of blacks as an integral part of the American experience.

(Mr. Crouch disdained the African American expression, saying, “I use Negroes, Black Americans, African Americans. And eventually I could throw American brown. I don’t use African American because I have friends who are from Africa. But I use African American, because it means which is derived but not direct. “)

Mr. Crouch said he learned to write largely on his own by devouring books as a child and then tapping into an innate lyrical sensibility, which he expressed in poetry as well as prose. He wrote about jazz trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie:

“He went from the position of a weird fish to a starry surfer riding the high and curved water of a trend, he sank into the position of those miracles taken for granted, but periodically returned to sight, dripping with new wisdom, beckoning as the others we followed Him to the thin boards of art and entertainment that must ride those who make a name for themselves in jazz, on top of the roller coaster waves of public taste, swinging all our blues in a fickle brine where they are forever in danger . “

Mr. Crouch attended, although he never graduated, two community colleges, but his stature as a writer led him to teach at Pomona, Pitzer and Claremont colleges, all in Claremont, California, east of Los Angeles. , where he was known as a charismatic poet and teacher of English and drama in the late 1960s and early 1970s. (In Pomona, one of his students was George C. Wolfe, who became art director of the Public Theater in New York.)

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