2 November 2009
I have a soft spot in my heart for Los Angeles Times emeritus pop critic Robert Hilburn. Back when I spent more time writing about music than enabling its makers to make a career at it, Bob was kind enough to invite me to the newspaper’s dining hall for a pep talk. He eventually commissioned me to write a handful of articles for the paper and provided some general life encouragement, but I was less thankful for his professional assistance than for his being. His sunny, angst-free demeanor and real enthusiasm for the soundtrack of his life was clear and real. He provided a ray of light at the end of the long tunnel that is freelancer life.
But what is Hilburn’s legacy as a critic? I have mixed feelings. His Wikipedia entry gives a good summary of his critical philosophy. (Unlike many pop critics he definitely had one.):
This approach has its problems, however, which this summary also articulates.
Basically there was something about Bob’s warm, humanistic approach to music appreciation that caused him to vacillate between getting hoodwinked by hype and falling in love with his subjects.
Well, Bob — having accepted a buyout from the LA Times in 2005 — has spent the last few years writing a book, the just published Corn Flakes with John Lennon: And Other Tales from a Rock ‘n’ Roll Life, and that’s led to some deeper analysis of how useful his critical approach is circa 2009.
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Posted by Alec Hanley Bemis
Tags: Bob Dylan, Bon Iver, Bono, Bruce Springsteen, Conor Oberst, Dirty Projectors, Ethics, Hero Worship, Indie Rock, John Mayer, Los Angeles Times, Michael Jackson, Robert Hilburn, Rock Critics, The Problem With Nostalgia, We Are The World