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Amiri Baraka Dies at 79

Renowned poet was also a respected jazz critic and advocate

Amiri Baraka
(l-r) Gary Bartz, Amiri Baraka, Lee Konitz, Ravi Coltrane, Adam Rogers
Amiri Baraka presents the Jazz Journalists Association's Lifetime Achievement Award to Willard Jenkins at the JJA's 2013 award ceremony in NYC

Amiri Baraka-poet, author, activist, playwright and jazz critic-died today, Jan. 9, at age 79 in Newark. N.J. A cause of death was not reported but Baraka had been hospitalized for about a month. Outspoken, controversial, brilliant and insightful, Baraka, who was also an educator, was often honored for his work. Among his many awards, he was New Jersey’s Poet Laureate in 2002-2003.

Within the jazz sphere, Baraka was highly regarded for his books of criticism, including 1963’s Blues People: Negro Music in White America, 1968’s Black Music-both written under his birth name Leroi Jones-and The Music: Reflections on Jazz and Blues (1987). He also published The Book of Monk, a poetry volume, in 2005.

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