Sonny Rollins and The New Yorker: YIKES!
I’m back from vacation and what am I greeted with — a real-life and genuine, if fully trumped up, jazz controversy. I am referring to the fervor being generated over a column several days ago in The New Yorker titled: Sonny Rollins: In His Own Words. The article appeared in the “Shouts & Murmurs” section, which is a longtime humor column in The New Yorker. In the article a writer under the pseudonym Django Gold attributes a number of ridiculous statements to Sonny. Samples: “The saxophone sounds horrible. Like a scared pig.” And: “Jazz may be the stupidest thing anyone ever came up with.”
When I first saw the article, my immediate reaction was: “Why would Sonny lend his name to something so stupid.” Turns out he didn’t. The New Yorker figured it would be funnier to attach the quotes to the world’s greatest living jazz musician without his consent and just let it sit out there for the public to absorb.
Well, the public has absorbed and the short answer is pretty simple: NOT FUNNY!
The longer answer is a broad scathing reaction to the piece, including an interview with Sonny himself reacting to the article. In Sonny’s response, which is definitely worth the price of admission, we learn that Sonny is a fan, supporter and even subscriber of Mad Magazine. Do a Google search if you have time — you will see massive public reaction and broad displeasure/anger/agita. The New Yorker has tried to backtrack by putting the following caveat on this article: “Editor’s note: This article, which is part of our Shouts & Murmurs humor blog, is a work of satire.” Too little, too late.
I’m not one to take things too seriously in general, but I do have to agree that the piece simply wasn’t funny and was made worse by attaching the unfunny and silly comments to a musician of great import in our history. I found it quite disrespectful, in fact. What about you? You have to question: Would they have done the same thing to someone like Leonard Bernstein or Bob Dylan or Stephen Sondheim, to name just a few white musical giants of our time?