Everybody Has the Right to Be Wrong

In 1965, Sammy Cahn and Jimmy Van Heusen wrote a song for Frank Sinatra entitled “Everybody Has the Right to Be Wrong.” That tune has been running through my mind a lot these days in line with some recent comments I made about DownBeat magazine in a story I wrote about the unfortunate demise of Jazz Times magazine.

With the publication of the July issue of DownBeat, which in fact is their 75th anniversary collector’s edition, I have come to the realization that I should not have dismissed them in such a cavalier manner. Indeed, with the publication of this issue, DownBeat has demonstrated everything that it was, is and likely will be.

DownBeat has what the other publications do not have, and likely could never have.

An incomparable legac editorial and photographic legacy. 75 years’ worth.

The hefty, 130-pager is well-balanced and thought out via archival pieces featuring everyone from Duke Ellington and Thelonious Monk to Hank Mobley and Mel Torme’. Portions of several pieces have been widely quoted through the years in a number of books, notably Louis Armstrong’s 1948 thoughts about bop (he described it as “modern malice”) and Monk’s famed, 1958 answer to the question about where jazz is going (“I don’t know where its going,” Monk said. “Maybe it’s going to hell”).

The editors also came up with quite the incisive concept via giving a number of artists the chance to explore their own, DownBeat archives. Sonny Rolllins, Dave Brubeck and Marian McPartland have been given the opportunity to comment on pieces written about them for, in some cases, six decades.

The roster of writers in this issue constitute a list of names never equaled in jazz journalism history, including Nat Hentoff, Leonard Feather, Ira Gitler, Don Gold, Don DeMicheal, Pete Welding, Michael Cuscuna, John Litweiler, Chuck Berg, Elliot Meadow, Bill Coss, Joe Goldberg, Gordon Kopulos, Ralph J. Gleason, Dom Cerulli, Dave Dexter and Barbara Gardner. I grew up with many of these names as did many an aspiring jazz journalist. Its wonderful and heartwarming to read them again.

A marvelous feature of the publication through the years were the articles written by the artists themselves. Artists/contributors represented here include Benny Goodman, Stan Kenton, Anita O’Day, Count Basie, Jimmy Giuffre, Chick Corea and Benny Golson. Fascinating.

“On its 75th birthday, DownBeat can stand tall knowing that it has become an integral part of so many peoples’ lives,” says Jason Koransky, in his “First Take” column.

It has become an integral part of mine. “Everybody Has the Right to Be Wrong.”

I stand corrected.

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