Monday, July 12, 2010
Sadly, writer and noted jazz critic Harvey Pekar was found dead at 1 am this morning by his wife Joyce Brabner at their home in Cleveland Heights. The cause of death has not yet been disclosed pending the results of the coroner's autopsy but Pekar suffered from lymphoma as chronicled in the 1994 graphic novel Our Cancer Year and had more recently been battling prostate cancer in addition to high blood pressure, asthma and depression. He was 70.
Perhaps best known for his contributions to the cult comic American Splendor and his hilariously confrontational on-air exchanges with David Letterman, Pekar was also an enthusiastic record collector with an impressively deep knowledge of jazz music and a delightful sense of humour as I came to appreciate through our infrequent telephone conversations that were informative as they were entertaining. He might start by discussing a review of a bop-era reissue he was working on at the moment but that was usually just the jump off point for a colourful anecdote-rich rant about some unjustly obscure artist who never received proper credit for their important innovations. It was through Pekar that I gained a greater appreciation for the accomplishments of saxophonist Joe Maneri and mandolinist/clarinetist Andy Statman among others and for that, I'm truly grateful. They sure don't make 'em like Harvey anymore. He'll be missed.
Harvey Pekar on Late Night with David Letterman July 31, 1987