Stanley Crouch died yesterday at the age of 74. Crouch is best known as a great jazz critic. His biography of Charlie Parker is a classic.
But Crouch was also a literary critic and a critic of our culture. Here are some gems from his criticism:
On rap: It is “either infantile self-celebration or anarchic glamorization of criminal behavior.”
On Toni Morrison:
She has a certain skill, but she has no serious artistic vision or real artistic integrity. “Beloved” was a fraud. It gave a fake vision of the slave trade, it didn’t deal with the complicity of Africans, and it moved the males into the wings.
On Spike Lee: He’s “a middle-class would-be street Negro,” whose films reflected “fantasy” versions of Black communities and “the fundamental shallowness that you get from a propagandist.”
On Malcolm X: He was “the chief black heckler of the civil rights movement.”
On the civil rights movement: It aspired to a “complex vision of universal humanism” and cultural understanding before it was “hijacked by radicals.”
On Louis Farrakhan: He’s “our most highly respected racist and all-purpose lunatic.”
On his African American critics:
I’ve been applauded by black bus drivers, subway drivers, mechanics, various people who have come up to me and said, “I’m sure glad somebody is saying it.” That’s enough for me. I don’t care what some trickle-down Negro Marxist says.
On the black nationalist movement:
Race pride is something that I’m not unacquainted with. But that’s different from racism, and a lot of people in the cultural nationalist movement are hard-core anti-white racists. And to me, racism is antithetical to the Afro-American tradition.
On his education:
If you came in there and said, “I’m from a dysfunctional family and a single parent household,” they would say, “Boy, I’m going to ask you again. What is 8 times 8?”
When I was coming up, there were no excuses except your house burned down and there was a murder in the family.
Crouch’s no-nonsense education produced a brilliant enemy of nonsense. RIP.