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Final Chorus: The Thoreau of Jazz

As a teenager in Boston, one of my heroes-after Duke Ellington-was a fellow New Englander, Henry David Thoreau, who, as an unyielding abolitionist and opponent of the Mexican-American war, went to jail rather than pay six years of back taxes.

Years later, I learned that Martin Luther King, Jr., was first turned on to nonviolent resistance by reading Thoreau’s 1849 essay “Civil Disobedience.” King wrote, “Fascinated by the idea of refusing to cooperate with an evil system, I was so deeply moved that I reread the work several times.”

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Originally Published
Nat Hentoff

Nat Hentoff

Over more than 60 years, Nat Hentoff (1925-2017) wrote about music, politics, and many other subjects for a variety of publications, including DownBeat (which he edited from 1953 to 1957), the Village Voice (where he was a weekly columnist from 1958 to 2009), the Wall Street Journal, and JazzTimes, to which he regularly contributed the Final Chorus column from 1998 to 2012. Of the 32 books that he wrote, co-wrote, or edited, 10 focus on jazz. In 2004, Hentoff became the first recipient of the National Endowment for the Arts’ Jazz Masters award for jazz advocacy.