Ep. 10—Ben Ratliff, Jazz and Pop Critic Extraordinaire


Ben Ratliff is one of the most highly-regarded names in music journalism. He's also a friend and former high school classmate, whom I bonded with listening to Treacherous Three and D Train songs back in the day.

For 20 years, Ben held the influential position of jazz and pop critic for The New York Times, where he wrote hundreds of reviews, profiles, and think pieces. He also wrote four acclaimed books, including Every Song Ever: Twenty Ways to Listen in an Age of Musical Plenty and The Jazz Ear: Conversations Over Music. These days, Ben teaches cultural criticism at NYU (I want to take that class!), and and he's a contributor to such publications as Esquire and Rolling Stone.

On this episode of Write About Now, we talk about his rise at the Times from a stringer, to  staffer, to elder statesman. We also dig into the art of music criticism: How to listen to and think about songs in new ways, then translate that aural joy onto the page. As you'll hear, Ben's depth of wisdom and his intellect are off the charts. I understood about 87 percent of what he said, but I enjoyed every second of it!