Hundreds of people gathered at St. Peter’s Church in Midtown on Friday to remember the two things Nat Hentoff held most dear: freedom and jazz.
The memorial celebration for Hentoff, the prolific journalist, jazz critic, and Voice columnist for more than 50 years who died last month at age 91, featured music, remembrances, and a panel discussion.
“I like that he was very consistent in his views and didn’t adhere to any specific ideology,” Hugo Hentoff said of his grandfather. “Groups try to claim him, but really he was him.”
Michael Meyers, president and executive director of the New York Civil Rights Coalition described his friend as “one of the earliest ones who said, ‘Yeah, of course Nazis have the right to march in Skokie, Illinois, of course!’”
“He was an absolutist when it came to free speech,” Meyers added.
Randy Weston, a jazz pianist and friend of Hentoff’s performed his song “Berkshire Blues” — because the two met many years ago in the Berkshires. “We talked a lot about one thing: freedom,” Weston told the audience. “We talked about that.”
The service ended with the Big Four Brass Band parading into Saint Peter’s Church.
“At the center of the criticism is the chief articulator of Bush’s imperial presidency,” we reported in 1992, “the man who wrote the legal rationale for the Gulf War, the Panama invasion, and the officially sanctioned kidnapping of foreign nationals abroad.”
"Here was a messenger whose lyrics call attention to our condition, to the reasons for suffering: The music brings lightness to the feet and makes them dance, but the beat is a marching drum, a call to struggle"