Monday, November 13, 2006

Ellen Willis

Ellen Willis died last week at the age of 64, from lung cancer. She was a feminist writer and social critic who wrote for a long time for the New York Review of Books and The Nation. However, I remember her as the rock music critic for the New Yorker in the late 60's and early '70's, before there was any serious rock criticism to speak of in mainstream journalism, and I was desperate to read anything I could find about music.
Ellen Willis turned me on to, among others, Big Star (long before they became critical faves) and Five Dollar Shoes, a band that created one of my top-five never-gonna-be-released-on-cd-unless-I-do-it lps.
At a time when most rock criticism seemed like it was written by ten year olds for ten year olds, Willis never patronized. She took the music seriously, she had good taste, and her writing was strong enough to stand alongside that of Pauline Kael, Roger Angell and John McPhee.

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