From the Inbox (re: Robert Palmer)

Steven Ward writes: “For those that missed it the first time around, Blues & Chaos: The Music Writing of Robert Palmer goes on sale today as a paperback. “Edited by Rolling Stone Contributing Editor Anthony DeCurtis, Blues & Chaos collects the best music journalism by the late, great Palmer, known for his work as a teacher, musician, record producer as well as the first, full-time … Continue reading From the Inbox (re: Robert Palmer)

More on Robert Palmer (Mary Katherine Aldin)

Mary Katherine Aldin writes:

I was sent the link to your site by a fellow music writer who knew that Bob and I had been friends for the last 15 years of his life.

I’d been thinking about Bob a lot the past few days, as the anniversary of his death rolled around and yet another year went by without him. Nobody will ever know how lucky I was to have this incredibly special person as a friend. He had the most open ears of anyone I’ve ever known, and did his best to pry mine loose (without, I’m sorry to say, ever really succeeding). “What the HELL is that noise?” I’d ask as he played some foreign-sounding stuff in a language I didn’t recognize. “Oh, Mary Katherine, it’s pygmy rain chants,” he’d reply, evidently expecting me to react as if it was the Holy Grail, which maybe to him it was. I’m a four-four person, and he was way out there in the land of seven-nine where I knew I was never going to be able to follow. Fortunately, he spoke my language even though I couldn’t speak his, so we communicated in what was probably the musical equivalent of baby-talk to him, although he was always too kind to say so.

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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.

Continue reading “Deep Blues: Missing Robert Palmer (A Critical Tribute)”