Stanley Crouch

(b. 1945)

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(b. 1945), jazz and cultural critic.

Stanley Crouch was born in Los Angeles. His father was a heroin addict and his mother a hard-working domestic who taught him to read before he entered school. Although Crouch attended both East Los Angeles Junior College and Southwest Junior College, he never earned a degree. In effect, he is an autodidact and his work reflects the strengths and weaknesses of the untrained intellectual. During the 1960s, Crouch became enamored of black nationalism and the theater. He was well known in black nationalist circles and was an actor, director, and playwright. He also was a drummer leading his own jazz combo during these days, recording an album with Impulse Records called Ain't No Ambulances for No Niggahs Tonight. In the 1970s, Crouch, deeply influenced by the works of Ralph Ellison and Albert Murray, began to distance himself from the black nationalists. In 1975 he moved to New York and began to write for the Village Voice, an association that ended in 1988 when he punched out another Voice writer in an argument over rap music. Many of his Voice pieces were collected in his first book, Notes of a Hanging Judge, published in 1990. Crouch has subsequently won both the Whiting Writer's Prize and the MacArthur Fellowship. In 1996 he was finishing a long-awaited biography of jazz saxophonist Charlie Parker, as well as a novel entitled “First Snow in Kokomo”. Acerbic and withering in his critical attacks, Crouch is often characterized as a conservative or even a race traitor. He is placed with black thinkers critical of the civil rights movement in Challenging the Civil Rights Establishment: Profiles of a New Black Vanguard (1993) by Joseph G. Conti and Brad Stetson. Crouch sees himself in the tradition of Ellison and Murray, understanding black American life as rich and complex, not necessarily warped by white racism and completely disconnected from an African past. Moreover, he sees himself in the tradition of an H. L. Mencken or George S. Schuyler as a satiric denouncer of all forms of cant, quackery, and nonsense. Crouch continues his iconoclastic writing on race and social values in The All-American Skin Game (1995) and Always in Pursuit (1993).

Gerald Early

Subjects: Literature — Music.

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