'Blues And Chaos': The Writing Of Robert Palmer

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Robert Palmer

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In this slightly unusual World Cafe, host David Dye sits down with renowned rock critic Anthony DeCurtis to talk about DeCurtis' latest book, Blues and Chaos: The Music Writing of Robert Palmer, a collection of writings by the late New York Times music critic.

DeCurtis got to know Palmer when they were colleagues at Rolling Stone.

Although Palmer would often disappear for months at a time when working on pieces that weren't time sensitive, DeCurtis says he could always be counted on to meet a deadline, no matter how short the time frame. When asked why he felt it necessary to compile a collection of Palmer's work, DeCurtis says Palmer was a pioneer and a fantastic writer who never received the attention he deserved.

Growing up in Little Rock, Ark., Palmer was heavily influenced by his parents — his father was a musician and his mother a poet — and the bustling live music scene. His background as a musician shaped his career as a writer. He was able to communicate with and gain the respect of the musicians he interviewed. But he never delved too far into the kind of overly technical writing that the average reader couldn't fully understand or appreciate.

DeCurtis says Blues and Chaos isn't just an attempt to give Palmer's work the recognition it deserves — it's a statement about what music writing can be, even as print journalism continues its decline. According to DeCurtis, Palmer set the standard for rock journalism. The majority of music writing available online, he says, simply doesn't compare.

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