Saddened to hear from Mark Swed of the death, Friday afternoon, of Alan Rich. Alan could be cranky, eccentric and needlessly ad hominem. But many of his targets were dead on, and he was always an impassioned critic with wonderfully intense, personal tastes -- many of which I shared.
I always felt a certain parallelism with him, sometimes in reverse and 15 years younger. We both went to Harvard College and Berkeley for grad school, and felt at home on both coasts. His progression was bolder, though, in that having established himself in New York, he went back out to California and became a champion of west coast music, new and otherwise, when it wasn't yet fashionable to do so. When I lived in LA in the early 70's, I was bemused at how the locals were constantly proclaiming LA the new, happening arts city. They were premature then, but it all came true eventually, and Alan had a good deal to do with that, reaffirming the easily overlooked role of sympathetic criticism to the nurturing of a local scene.
Alan had ears. The first time I ever heard of Philip Glass was as an eager reader in California in the late 60's or very early 70's and Alan was still the critic for New York Magazine. Then, when I was in New York and he in LA, I was constantly enlivened and informed by his reports from the west. While his long career might be seen unsympathetically as a downward slide, in terms of the declining prominence of his outlets, he kept on listening and writing. His reviews were sometimes provincial and full of special pleading for his adopted home. But they were always lively and acute, right to the end. I will miss him, and so should American music.