R.I.P., Ken Nordine

Ken Nordine, a voice you may recall from “Word Jazz,” a staple on NPR for years, has left the studio. He was 98.

A baritone storyteller who began with voiceovers on radio and TV, Nordine would go on to collaborate with Tom Waits, Jerry Garcia, David Grisman and others.

He once said that the goal of his poetry was to “make people think about their thinking and feel about their feeling, but even more important to think about their feeling and feel about their thinking.”

I think he succeeded. Whenever I’d hear that impossibly deep voice softshoe out of my radio and into my head, I’d stop whatever I was doing and pay attention. They’re nodding and yessing and popping their fingers at Next World Coffee this morning.


12 Responses to “R.I.P., Ken Nordine”

  1. mike w. Says:

    i “discovered” Ken Nordine in ’66 or ’67. He had a 30 minute show weeknights on WBBM (IIRC) Chicago… “Now, Nordine.” Somewhere i have a couple of reel-to-reel tapes i did with a Wollensak recorder & my little 6 transistor pocket radio.

    Unfortunately, his Word Jazz show aired at midnight on Sundays here. A perfect show for late night listening, but not often heard by me because of a 4AM wakeup call for work on Monday.

    He had a good long run, and he is sorely missed.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      I forget where I first heard him. KRCC-FM in Bibleburg, probably. Or maybe KOAC in Corvallis, Oregon. My workday there started at 4 a.m., too. Never work for an afternoon newspaper.

      We’re enjoying something of a renaissance in audio these days, but back in Those Fabulous Seventies there was a ton of great stuff on public radio: King Biscuit Flour Hour, The National Lampoon Radio Hour, and of course Prairie Home Companion, before Garrison Keillor got weird on us.

  2. JD Dallager Says:

    Back in the late ’70s when my family and I were stationed in Germany, if you wanted American English info, there was only the AFRN (Armed Forces Radio Network) broadcasts in limited areas of Deutschland. Later, the television capability was added.

    So, we listened to the evening news and original “old-time” radio broadcasts of The Lone Ranger, Jack Benny, I Love Lucy, Prairie Home Companion, et al. Talk about engaging and funny! And, unlike today, your imagination was “your imagination”. Much like reading still is……for those so inclined.

    +1 here on the contemporary renaissance of audio.

  3. Geoffrey M. Knobl Says:

    I was just thinking of him the other day and wondering what happened to
    him. Couldn’t think of his name. Mostly that jeans commercial he did
    the voice work on plus the NPR interview.

  4. Dale Says:

    Totally unrelated to the discourse, but this young lady deserves a prize.


    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      Isn’t that something? Patagonia was where Jim Harrison died, you may recall. I like to think the shade of the old poet and brawler was lending strength to her arm.

      Also, and too, she was riding a bicycle. All real pros ride bicycles. Just sayin’.

    • Pat O'Brien Says:

      Patagonia is a gentrified little burg now. I avoid stopping there. If I want to go full blown gentry, I will go to Tubac. At least they have a great kitchen store, Tumacookery, that I have mentioned before. It seems the 12 year old “journalist” and the town marshal both could learn a little about civility, respect, and plain talk. Go away kid, you’re bothering me and I don’t see any press credentials.

      • Patrick O'Grady Says:

        Some cops don’t know the law. Worse, some think they are the law, and that the badge is Captain America’s shield. This guy has pulled this shit before, and if it takes a preteen girl to send him back to studying Arizona law for a while, I say well done indeed.

      • Pat O'Brien Says:

        I agree. The guy is a jerk, definitely hiding behind the badge, and needs to go in another line of work.

        But when do we treat 12 year olds with a video camera and a blog as journalists? is her hopping over a 4 strand barb wire fence and vehicle bollards, as shown on her blog article along with a few local interviews, news? Is she being a real journalist? Any coverage on the wall to wall border agents in that area. Ground sensors? Drone flights that go over my house every night? Elevated observation platforms with night vision. Did she check on the actually security in the area, or is she just a kid interviewing a few people and jumping a fence for a little drama? Does she live on the border? Am I guilty of youthism, as she claims in one of her other blog articles? I guess I am and just a grouchy old man. Journalist? Nope, ain’t buying it.

        • Hurben Says:

          PO’B, there are not enough of us grouchy old men around.
          One of my favorite quotes is stuck up in my workshop,
          “When I was a kid, I wanted to be older, this shit is not what I expected”

        • Pat O’Brien Says:

          I am not as grouchy after a good night’s sleep. I suppose this young lady shows talent and promise as a journalist. But, I would rather leave that determination to a real journalist like Patrick. I think this whole story is just an internet fad for anyone that has an ax to grind about cops. I hope the dumpster doesn’t see the video of her on the border. He will use it to promote more of his bullshit wall.

        • Patrick O'Grady Says:

          The kid may be one of the rare ones who has a Calling, with a capital C.

          I was likewise blessed (or cursed, depending upon your perspective). I knew from an early age that I was going to be a rich and famous cartoonist and got right after it, with the support of my parents. One of this kid’s parents is an adult journalist, apparently, so she has backup, and with experience in The Craft, too. Mine just thought I was cute, until I proved otherwise.

          Anyway, I was cartooning for my high-school paper when I was not much older than she is. And I was not very good. But I was very focused, driven and opinionated (imagine that). And some people paid attention. This continued for a lot longer than anyone thought possible.

          I’m still not very good, but I got better, by loving what I was doing and pounding away at it, especially when people thought I should have been focusing on other things. I think maybe that’s what this kid is up to. Any District 11 school-board member who saw my notes in the late Seventies would have called the managing editor and yelled, “Why are you sending a goddamned cartoonist to cover our meetings?”

          I’m just happy we didn’t have this Instant Global Fame Machine chugging along when I was a kid. I was* enough of an egomaniacal obsessive arsehole without the world evenly divided between slagging me and cheering me on.

          * Yes, I wrote “was.” The condition persists, as you know.

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