Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

Consumer Guide:
  User's Guide
  Grades 1990-
  Grades 1969-89
  Expert Witness
Books:
  Going Into the City
  Consumer Guide: 90s
  Grown Up All Wrong
  Consumer Guide: 80s
  Consumer Guide: 70s
  Any Old Way You Choose It
  Don't Stop 'til You Get Enough
Writings:
  CG Columns
  Rock&Roll& [new]
  Rock&Roll& [old]
  Music Essays
  Music Reviews
  Book Reviews
  NAJP Blog
  Playboy
  Blender
  Rolling Stone
  Billboard
  Video Reviews
  Pazz & Jop
  Recyclables
  Newsprint
  Lists
  Miscellany
Bibliography
NPR
Web Site:
  Home
  Site Map
  What's New?
Carola Dibbell:
  Carola's Website
  Archive
Venues:
  Noisey
CG Search:
Google Search:
Twitter:

Ellen Willis, 1941-2006

In rock journalism, Ellen Willis, who died of cancer on November 9th at sixty-four, is honored as the godmother: first female rock critic, New Yorker, 1968-1975. But not only does this ignore such pioneers as the New York Daily News' Lillian Roxon and The Cleveland Plain Dealer's Jane Scott, it minimizes Willis' achievement. With New Yorker pieces as idea-crammed as Richard Meltzer's in Crawdaddy! and ten times as lucid, Willis had a major impact on rock's critical worldview. She was equally seminal as a feminist, theorizing in favor of both abortion rights and pornography, and addressed many other issues from her uniquely libertarian and pop-friendly socialist perspective. At Rolling Stone in the 1970s, she wrote about culture and politics in her column, "Alternating Currents," and contributed exhaustively reported features on date rape and Orthodox Judaism, as well as the Janis Joplin entry in The Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock & Roll. Willis was for many years an editor and columnist at The Village Voice. In 1995, she founded the nation's first graduate-level arts-journalism program, at NYU, where she was beloved, one student writes, "for her wit and ideas and social reticence (which made her all the more intriguing and formidable)."

Rolling Stone, Dec. 14, 2006