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Critic Joel E. Siegel Dies

Very few people can make a dirty joke and a deeply insightful comment in the same sentence, but Joel E. Siegel was one of those folks. The former JazzTimes contributor died March 11 at George Washington University Hospital from spinal meningitis. He was 63.

For his primary job, Siegel taught film studies at Georgetown University for 32 years before retiring in 1998. But over the years he was an active freelance writer on film and music for many publications, primarily for Washington City Paper, D.C.’s alternative weekly. His sometimes acerbic but always perceptive music writing received the ultimate award in 1993 when he won a Grammy for his contributions to the liner notes to the 10-CD set The Complete Billie Holiday on Verve, 1945-1959.

Outside of his professorial job, Siegel found time to be a lyrics writer and music producer for live performances and recordings. He also managed singer Shirley Horn in the 1980s and part of the 1990s. He produced her 1987 album Softly, co-produced 1990’s You Won’t Forget Me and 1992’s I Love You, Paris contributed to the making of 1991’s Here’s to Life. More recently Siegel produced Patti Wicks’ Love Locked Out for MaxJazz.

A native of Washington, Pa., Siegel graduated from Cornell University and received a master’s degree and a doctorate in English from Northwestern University.

In addition to his sister, Judith Siegel-Baum, of New York, survivors include his parents, Sherman H. and Miriam Danzinger Siegel of Washington, Pa.

Originally Published