Claremont, Calif. (September 23, 2020)—Stanley Crouch, former Pitzer College poet-in-residence, cultural critic, jazz expert, and literary provocateur, died September 16 at age 74 in New York.
From 1968 to 1975, Crouch taught at The Claremont Colleges, first as poet-in-residence at Pitzer College, then as the first full-time faculty member of the Black Studies Center, and finally in a joint appointment to the BSC and the English Department of Pomona College. During this period in Claremont, Crouch wrote and directed 10 plays.
In 1975, Crouch moved to New York, primarily to be closer to the center of the jazz world. Between 1990 and 2006, he published five collections of essays and a novel, Don’t the Moon Look Lonesome, about the marital struggles of an interracial pair of jazz musicians. His first collection, Notes of a Hanging Judge: Essays and Reviews, 1979-1989, was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for criticism and was selected by the Encyclopedia Britannica Yearbook as the best book of essays published in 1990. In 2013, he published the biography of Charlie Parker, Kansas City Lightning, considered Crouch’s masterpiece. It was written in the bouncy, rhythmic style of a jazz solo.
He was born in Los Angeles on December 14, 1945, and attended East Los Angeles and Southwest junior colleges without earning a degree. Suffering from asthma as a youth, he became a dedicated reader and jazz fan.
Later, as a columnist with the Daily News in New York, Crouch received a MacArthur Foundation “genius” grant and a Jazz Masters Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts.
Throughout his life, Crouch was an outspoken critic of culture and society. In 1990, he told the Washington Times, “You have to be the lion in the path of anarchy. See, I’m not going to submit to racism, I don’t care whose version of it I happen to come in contact with; I’m not going to submit to superficial thinking about people; I’m not going to submit to any ideas that reduce the rich possibility of human life.”