Why Studs Terkel Will Be Missed

When my wife told me the news last Friday afternoon, I felt the kind of whoosey feeling you get when someone important to your creative life is no longer there and you feel like that part of your creative life needs to mourn the loss.

Though interviewing is often a side topic to Live Exhaust, its something I do quite often while reviewing a live show. And as I mentioned on my Saul Williams post awhile back, it’s during those moments that I’ve had some of my most memorable live experiences.

During these last few days I’ve thought a lot about my creative roots and where my passion to interview people came from. I’ve been told that I’ve always been a curious person ever since I was a kid. I was always studying things and asking questions of people around me.

If someone were to ask me who inspired me to develop my craft as an interviewer and journalist I would point to one person in a heartbeat; and that person is Studs Terkel, who last Friday, at 96, died in his Chicago home.

I always wondered why John Lennon fans got so upset and even cried when he was killed, or why Elvis fans would camp out at Graceland on the King’s birthday. And until last Friday I had not had the chance or any real opportunities to experience the lost of an artist who was important to me, or feel the sadness of one of my most cherished influences or inspirations pass on.

It may sound drastic but when it comes down to it, I would be lost when it comes to learning how to interview artists and entertainers, athletes and see them as human beings without the guidance I’ve found in Studs Terkel’s books and hearing him speak on two occasions in Chicago. Whenever I feel like I have lost my interviewing mojo, or lost my direction of why I love interviewing so much, I open up a Studs Terkel book to get back on track; and whenever I start to slip and think that interviewing is about me, I open up a Studs Terkel book.

Sadly our culture doesn’t get to really appreicate or celebrate someone until their dead and gone, so if the name Studs Terkel is new to you and you enjoy reading or listening to good conversation about average people struggling with or celebrating life as each day ticks away, I encourage and challenge you to read a Studs Terkel book. You won’t be disappointed.

You can get to know more about Terkel here in this Chicago Tribune article that does a fine job of paying tribute to the Chicago legend.

I’m glad I had the chance to meet him and shake his hand a few years back. And even if people still say “no” when I ask them if they’ve ever heard of Studs Terkel, I’ll keep telling them who he was because they need to know and also because I need to remember who taught me what it truly means to interview someone; and to always remember why I get a transendent buzz after an interview; that buzz which tells me that I’ve just had the honor to see a piece of someone’s soul.

Thanks Studs.

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