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Friday, October 31, 2008

Studs Terkel Checks Out at 96: Curiosity Didn't Kill This Cat

Studscigar StudsCTA

Here's the Chicago Tribune article report on Studs' life, and death. My first thought when I heard? Too bad he couldn't have lived to see another Chicago icon, Barack Obama, be elected, be inaugurated.

I was born and raised in Chicago, and Studs WAS Chicago through and through. He was fascinated with human beings. He fought all his life for social justice. He was funny as hell. He could be tough and gruff, and tender and sentimental. He was full of enlightened street smarts. He was into everything.

He was of the people, by the people, for the people -- especially the ordinary, working people. But he also said, "I admire artists. I admire gifted people." And it showed. It was such an American sentiment then. Not so much now, unfortunately. If there's one thing this culture surely lacks right now, it's admiration for gifted people, for talent and intelligence and free-spirited characters.

For many of my younger years, Studs was often there in the background, on the radio, interviewing everyone -- high and low -- and inserting jazz and folk and gospel in between. A soundtrack to the lives of so many Chicagoland souls.


And then there were the books -- the transcriptions of the real words of real people he drew so deftly into honest conversation. Words he absorbed by truly listening. He gave the words respect -- and an immortality of sorts -- just as he did the people and what they had to do to get through the world.

He never learned to drive. He smoked cigars. He wore red socks and red-checkered shirts. He was an unapologetic lefty, progressive and fearless. He lived for knowledge and stories, which he shared with the world. He was what used to be called a "raconteur." He lived big and wide and passionately and thoroughly, and he saw the humor and the pain in it all. He loved life, as it is and as it should be.

He once said his epitaph should read, "Curiosity didn't kill this cat." And it didn't. It kept him buzzing, till the end. That Studs.

October 31, 2008 at 05:10 PM | Permalink


Mr. Terkel is one of my heroes. I don't really have anything to add to that, other than a worry about where the next generation of folks like Studs Terkel and Molly Ivins are. I'm gonna miss both of them, but I'll really miss them if we don't have some smart, rabble-rousing dependable writers/voices to fill those now-empty messy writer's desk and chairs.

Posted by: | Nov 1, 2008 9:02:46 AM

Apparently he told friends that he wanted to live long enough to see Obama elected. He was a big supporter, according to the BBC.

I liked Studs too. His book the Great Divide was one of the first "real" books I bought as an adult with few pennies to spend on books.

Posted by: KathyF | Nov 1, 2008 9:47:21 AM

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