Deep Blues: Missing Robert Palmer (A Critical Tribute)

Robert Palmer, photographed by Cherie Nutting
Photo of Robert Palmer by Cherie Nutting

Ten years ago today (November 20), the music critic Robert Palmer died at the age of 52 from complications due to liver disease.

Best known as the chief pop music critic for the New York Times (a gig he held down for more than a decade), Palmer achieved more in a relatively brief career as a critic than many will in a lifetime: author of several highly regarded books (including 1981’s Deep Blues, long considered one of the classic studies outlining the origins of rock & roll); screenwriter and music director of various music-based films; record producer and musician; ethnomusicologist and scholar.

Palmer’s first love was the blues, but his scope as a music critic was endless, as evidenced by the small sampling of available NYT articles way at the bottom of this feature. asked several critics colleagues and fans of Palmer to share their thoughts about the man on this special anniversary. (Longtime readers of Palmer will be pleased to note that contributor Anthony DeCurtis is presently compiling a long overdue collection of Palmer’s writing.) If you would like to add some words about Palmer and what his work means to you, give us a shout we would be happy to publish more tributes down the road.

Many thanks to all contributors: Stephen Davis, Anthony DeCurtis, Nelson George, Alan Light, Jon Pareles, Brad Tolinski, and Steven Ward.

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