Sonny Rollins Fans Go Ballistic About New Yorker Article
The New Yorker's "Shouts & Murmurs" column, which is satirical and runs every week in the magazine, is usually pretty funny. The online version? Not so much.
YouTube screencap of Rollins' webcast Sonny Rollins Monday night
Last week saw an entry called "Sonny Rollins: In His Own Words." But it was not written by Rollins, it was written by Onion scribe Django Gold. It was satire, but nobody got it, and there was a shitstorm.
That's because: A) It wasn't funny and B) Jazz fans are generally kind of humorless.
Rollins, of course, is one of the biggest names in the genre. His career stretches back to the late 1940s and includes stage time with virtually every major jazz musician.
He wrote the music to the film Alfie and made a cameo on the Rolling Stones' "Waiting on a Friend." Now 83, Rollins still tops jazz polls and record charts. He's known for an extreme dedication to his art and a sly sense of humor.
The New Yorker piece, on the other hand, was not nuanced. Framed as a list of 11 regrets, it's patently absurd.
"Jazz might be the stupidest thing anyone ever came up with," "Rollins" writes. "I really don't know why I keep doing this."
He continues: "Inertia, I guess. Once you get stuck in a rut, it's difficult to pull yourself out, even if you hate every minute of it. Maybe I'm just a coward."
The jokes fell flat. A lot of people believed it was actually written by Rollins (perhaps because the New Yorker used to have a good reputation for jazz coverage), and hyperventilating Twitterers used terms like "scandalous" and "libelous" between threats to cancel their subscriptions.
Meanwhile, jazz bloggers spent their weekend writing incensed posts. Marc Myers, a Wall Street Journal contributor, wondered, "Why would the New Yorker...wade in the jackass morass?"
Trumpeter and blogger Nicholas Payton made it more personal: "Black life in a world of White oppression and supremacy is satirical enough. We don't need your help adding it to it."
Perhaps because of all this, it quickly became one of the most popular posts on the magazine's blog. But at some point, the New Yorker made the unusual decision to add a note at the top:
"Editor's note: This article, which is part of our Shouts & Murmurs humor blog, is a work of satire."
Then the piece inspired a response from Rollins himself!