Nat Hentoff, Legendary Voice Journalist and Critic, Dies at 91


Nat Hentoff, a journalist, historian, novelist, and music critic who spent fifty years writing for the Village Voice, passed away on Saturday evening.

According to his son Nick, he was 91.

Hentoff’s work first appeared in the Voice in 1958. He covered city politics, penned scathing media criticism, and wrote prodigiously about jazz. Hentoff was named a Guggenheim fellow in 1972, and contributed to the Wall Street Journal and the New Yorker.

In his last column for the Voice, in 2009 (he had been let go by new management), Hentoff, a civil libertarian who was equally happy to heap scorn on George W. Bush as he was Barack Obama, embraced this description of himself by an old colleague: “He puts on his skunk suit and heads off to the garden party, week after week, again and again.”

It was here that I was able to practice, since 1958, what I learned from my non-chic mentors. And I’ll be putting on my skunk suit at other garden parties, now that I’ve been excessed from the Voice.

I was in my twenties when I learned my most important lesson from Izzy Stone: “If you’re in this business because you want to change the world, get another day job. If you are able to make a difference, it will come incrementally, and you might not even know about it. You have to get the story and keep on it because it has to be told.”

You can read some of Hentoff’s hits through the years here. The Voice will have more on his work and his legacy in the days to come.