Wednesday, October 16, 2013
BOB GREENE, 1922-2013
I lost touch with him for a few years—there were some ruffled feelings over my failure to acknowledge a book he had sent me—but we patched it up two years ago when he invited me to play with him, Sammy Rimington, and Stanley King at a "History of Jazz" show he wrote and performed at Preservation Hall. We had a nice reunion over lunch at Manale's on Napoleon Avenue, reminisced, and promised to reprise the show the following year. He never made it back to New Orleans. He developed a serious heart problem and underwent surgery for an experimental heart valve replacement. The operation was successful, but he was diagnosed with lung cancer earlier this year.The doctors gave him between 6 months and a year to live. He made 9 months.
My personal memories of Bob aside, he led a remarkable life as a writer and musician. In the early 60s he worked as a speech writer for the State Department, where he had occasion to encounter President John F. Kennedy. Several years later, he worked with Edward R. Murrow for the Voice of America. He spent many years working on a biography of his uncle Paul Blum, a founder of the OSS, precursor of the C.I.A. (http://www.amazon.com/Blum-san-Scholar-Soldier-Gentleman-Spy/dp/0966406419) As a pianist, he worked with many of the best known musicians on the New York scene, recorded at Preservation Hall with trombonist Jim Robinson, and for a number of years toured with a show he wrote and directed called "The World of Jelly Roll Morton."
Bob was a larger-than-life character who touched the lives of many people around the world. I am happy to have known him. And I will miss him.
[A nice interview/profile with Bob appeared on the Sag Harbor Express blog in 2011: