Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Xgau Sez

These are questions submitted by readers, and answered by Robert Christgau. New ones will appear in batches every third Tuesday.

To ask your own question, please use this form.

October 19, 2022

[Q] Gram Parsons didn't take kindly to Roger McGuinn replacing his vocals on Sweetheart of the Rodeo; he said in an interview that McGuinn "erased it and did the vocals himself and fucked it up." Do you hear it that way or nah? -- Sebastian, Santiago

[A] First of all, I see where there's a mega-reissue of Sweetheart of the Radio, which I knew naught of, because I have just about zero interest in these everything-included retrospectives. They're the rawest kind of corporate profit-taking and collectoritis, plus I have more old music I love in my shelves than I'll ever hear again, plus I still enjoy a lot of new stuff. Second, the Byrds have not aged well. They were the true folk-rock, which means among other things devoid of groove--their drummer, Michael Clarke, was the most stationary of his time, and he had competition. And their best singer wasn't leader McGuinn but Lord help them David Crosby, who admittedly did end up making something of himself. They meant a lot in their time on the basis of "Eight Miles High" alone, I still like Notorious in particular, and Sweetheart is several tads more than OK, though if you want to hear somebody cover "You Ain't Going Nowhere" I suggest Maria Muldaur. Third, Gram Parsons was a genius and a superb singer and they weren't. If he says his vocals were better than McGuinn's I see no reason not to believe him because I'd be surprised if they weren't, though doing the compare-and-contrast mambo with a YouTube version of the mega-reissue got tiresome fast. The Flying Burrito Brothers' The Gilded Palace of Sin remains one of my favorite albums ever. In addition to being a genius, Parsons was clearly cursed, and I'm very sorry he's gone.

[Q] For what it's worth, "It's Britney, Bitch" is the iconic opening line of her song "Gimme More." So while Gary K may have been a man appropriating the word, he was quoting a woman, and if it was supposed to sound cool, that's because Britney used it to sound cool. Why he thinks she ruled pop unchallenged from Madonna until Beyoncé I couldn't guess. On the other hand, you were dead on about Fantano's use of the word: sexist and hateful, and he should be ashamed. -- Ronan Connelly, Salt Lake City

[A] I knew this going in. But I've come to feel so strongly about "bitch" that I believe all men, gay men included, should make it a rule to stay away from it except in direct and explicit quotation. That said, however, it's certainly reasonable for you to alert readers who never think about Britney to this wrinkle.

[Q] Could you describe your audio system(s)? -- Faisal Ali, Toronto

[A] Not without great difficulty except to say that whenever I go over to Joe Levy's place I notice how much better his is. All my stuff is of quality without approaching audiophile standards I have no use for and would probably fuck up quick. For me what's important is its reach. My sound man is Perry Brandston, who I've known since 1966, when he was nine. He does sound for a living and is renowned for his knowledgeable and original and for just that reason eccentric setups. I have speakers in the dining room (formerly the living room "good ones," still loud and clear but now 30 years old), which abuts our open-plan kitchen and is where I do most of my joint listening with Carola. Early this year I replaced the finally kaput single workaday speaker in the bedroom, which is now mostly mine because for insomnia reasons Carola and I seldom sleep in the same room anymore (and Lord do I miss it), with an expensive one Perry recommended when it crapped out--there I hear music in mono. I have a quality but far from high-end hi-fi setup in my office and own a very good turntable I seldom use. But I also have Bose desktop speakers where I often check out stuff on Spotify etc. because I don't fancy the bother of crossing the room to punch the right buttons on my pre-amp. This was true long before I hit 80.

[Q] Overall, you seem pretty unimpressed with the Canadian music scene. While international artists like Neil Young or Arcade Fire are obvious exceptions, many of the most beloved bands inside the Great White North merit reviews that that range from tepid (Sloan, Guess Who, Gordon Lightfoot) to caustic (Tragically Hip, Rush, K-os). While the indie rock scene here gets occasional honorable mentions, many key Canuck bands don't merit reviews at all (Rheostatics, Sarah Harmer, Lowest of the Low, Teenage Head), and the same can be said of not just punk (Dayglo Abortions, Fucked Up, Forgotten Rebels), but rap (from Choclair & Maestro Fresh Wes to Snotty Nose Rez Kids & Kinnie Starr) and electronic music (from Skinny Puppy up through Holy Fuck and A Tribe Called Red). Not that I'm not a fan of them all myself, or that your take is idiosyncratic, but I'm curious: do you have any thoughts about what it is about what it is that makes so much Canadian music of such strictly regional appeal? -- Jim, Toronto

[A] I love Canada. I had a long-distance romance with a Canadian woman I remember with great fondness and respect that I broke off when I fell for Ellen Willis in early 1966. But before then I visited her every few months in Toronto, Quebec City, and Montreal, where I first saw the Rolling Stones live in November 1964 and was amazed to walk past the bus station afterward and see more male longhairs than had yet materialized in the East Village waiting to return to the boonies. I covered the big Toronto rock and roll festival in September 1969, also the Stones there in 1975. I've vacationed with my family in Canada several times. And to my way of thinking I've also loved plenty of Canadian music, particularly Neil Young and (early) Joni Mitchell but going all the way back to the Guess Who's "Undun," one of the linchpins of my 1969 "In Memory of the Dave Clark Five." I'd assume that among the 14 acts named not in my recall memory there are one or two worth an Honorable Mention and zero worth an A, because I have a pretty good network. I would assume these would be "indie" or "punk," because most rock bands I like these days are. I would brag that I'd read Leonard Cohen's Beautiful Losers before he released his first album and point out that I've said very nice things about such alt-rock as Tokyo Police Club, Pony, and especially the New Pornographers, fourth on the Dean's List in 2017. I would note that I've given A's to such rappers as Shad, K'naan, Backxwash, and the great Buck 65. I would note as well that the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation requires that its outlets promote Canadian music with disproportionate airplay. And I would wonder if, as I suspect, your hurt feelings go back to my disdain for the neither tragic nor hip Tragically Hip, the Great Mythic Unjustly Ignored Canadian Rock Band. Worse than Kansas, my sole review reported, and it doesn't get much worse than that.

September 21, 2022

And It Don't Stop.

Spotify praxis, a stupid feud, the greatness of the Funk Brothers, a sense of destiny that comes out in the sound, pop queens filed under 'B,' and right-wingers lie about everything (including punk)

[Q] I can see why Spotify is essential to doing your job--free streaming of selected songs for members of your audience who don't pay for music. Why don't you offer your audience that pays the option of streaming via Apple Music? After all, those who pay, especially Apple users, tend to be higher value users. -- John Gitelman, Stow, Massachusetts

[A] Since I receive very few promo CDs or DLs, Spotify is how I get to hear all the albums I don't have in my possession--a tiny proportion of the total available, of course, but hundreds a month. After multiple plays I decide which ones sound good enough to review and eventually buy, preferably as physicals, because for various reasons technological, psychological, and journalistic I prefer to review physicals--those I'm compelled to merely download I then burn. The Spotify songs included with the CG, which play at full length for readers who are Spotify subscribers and 30 seconds for those who aren't, leaves what readers then do with these albums up to them. I hope they buy some themselves, which is why I almost never publish pre-release reviews. But I have no control over that.

[Q] What do you think of Drake's hateful DMs to music reviewer Anthony Fantano? Have you ever received hate from a famous artist after an unflattering review? -- Juan, Paraguay

[A] Just what I've always wanted--a stupid feud between two public figures I'm supposed to care about and don't. As I explained several years ago when a question alerted me to Fantano's existence, I'm too busy listening to music--an oldish hip-hop album that seems destined for a CG review as I write, but definitely not one by Drake, who's bored me for many years now--to listen to podcasts much less album reviews much less Fantano's album reviews. Instead I read, and from what I read Drake's DMs are considerably less than hateful while his need to call attention to a reviewer he doesn't like is considerably more than stupid because it enhances the critic's fame. Fantano is right to make this point while milking Drake's attention for all it's worth. But he's not anything close to right to call correspondents he doesn't like "thirsty bitches" because it's vile to use "bitch" as an insult unless you're female yourself, at which point my male judgment becomes pretty much irrelevant.

[Q] Mongo wrapping up treating several beautiful suckling piglets that came down with exudative dermatitis. Mongo try new treatment for them--antibiotics and Motown music. Pigs seem to respond best to music. It sure had Mongo stomping around the pens when "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" came on. Then Mongo think this damn Jamerson sure play purty bass, and damn why don't people talk about the Funk Brothers more often? Aren't they the best band of all time that nobody know? Hell, maybe they better than the Beach Boys? Mongo try to think of better bands but nothing happens for awhile. Then he remembers some other candidates for best "unknown" bands of all time. The Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section Band, the Stax house band (Booker T. & the MGs), and the Wrecking Crew (natch). And Mongo throw in one more duo because he smoke too much weed--Sly and Robbie for they are multitudes in reggae. What you say? Is this silly parlor game? P.S. Mongo realized after he pressed send with meaty fingers he forgot to add the Hi Rhythm section band to his list of "unknown." Is anyone in there listening and can edit my question to add them? -- Mongolfier, Pig Farm, Ohio

[A] There are no parlor games anymore because there are no parlors. Instead there are internet timesucks, a category that includes neither your musical musings nor, I hope, my response. And for sure I've got one. Much as I admire Sly and Robbie especially, your first impulse was your best impulse. The winner is Motown's Funk Brothers hands down, though it must be said that they benefited immeasurably from their workmates: not just world-class vocalists the Temptations, Diana Ross, Marvin Gaye, and Smokey Robinson, to reference just the top tier, but extraordinary songwriters and producers, starting with Holland-Dozier-Holland of course but much as you might want to don't forget Berry Gordy, and I could go on. In my opinion none of the others you name are quite in their league, although Hi Rhythm with Al Green on board come close and L.A.'s Wrecking Crew also belongs in the mix (as indeed might the mid-'60s Rolling Stones). In this connection I highly recommend the 2019 Showtime documentary Hitsville: The Making of Motown, where I learned not only that drummer Benny Benjamin OD'd in 1968 and that nonpareil bassist James Jamerson, whose every lick Paul McCartney committed to memory and good for him, moved to L.A. in 1972 but never found his footing there. Race couldn't have helped, although the wondrous New Orleans drummer Earl Palmer did more than OK on the same scene. Neither could alcohol: Jamerson died of cirrhosis of the liver in 1983.

[Q] I've been benefiting from your pop-cultural optimism for nearly a half-century now, but I wonder if you share any of my current concern about the innovation slowdown (perhaps even a complete "stoppage") in pop music over the past three decades. For a good amount of recorded music's history, each decade brought a few breakthroughs unthinkable in the previous decade: Little Richard would have probably caused collective fainting-spells in the 1945 Coconut Grove, Are You Experienced? would have had people huddling in their bomb shelters in 1956, the Sex Pistols would have been placed on a mental-health watchlist in 1967, and Public Enemy's sampladelia would have caused hemorrhages on the 1975 Studio 54 dancefloor. As a post-Nevermind indie-rock agnostic and a post-Illmatic rap atheist, I don't think I've heard any pop music in the past 30 years that would have raised a conceptual eyebrow in the summer of 1989--if anyone can convince me otherwise, it's probably you. -- Petra St. Mu, New York City

[A] If you've really become a rap atheist then you've bowed out of the game. I mean, I have my doubts about most trap-identified contemporary hip-hop myself, but none whatsoever about Jay-Z, Eminem, pre-megalomaniac Kanye West, or Kendrick Lamar: unmistakably great and singular artists all, with many lessers making excellent and individually distinguished music in their wake, often off on the alt side (Homeboy Sandman, R.A.P. Ferreira). In alt-rock, meanwhile, the rise of the female factor has been a tremendous shot in the arm: Big Thief, Sad13, Chai, Illuminati Hotties, the Paranoid Style, Dry Cleaning, Wet Leg, I could go on, not always formally sui generis (though the first three sure are) but each markedly different and each imbued with a sense of destiny that comes out in the sound. Plus stuff that's going on in dance music that for a record nerd like me and perhaps you is too, as I like to say, site-specific, but as Beyonce likes to say is grist for the mill. Meanwhile try Phelimuncasi or DJ Maphorisa over in South Africa. Never heard anything much like 'em before.

[Q] Beyonce may reign supreme as today's pop queen but for the two decades between Madonna's heyday and Queen Bey, it was Britney bitch who held the throne. Your Britney reviews show Glory to be your favorite even though her earlier classics like Britney and Blackout rock much harder. And you never even reviewed her hits collection called The Essential Britney Spears which has got to be one of the great pop albums of all time. Did you miss that one when it was released in a limited edition or do you not agree it's her own personal A+ best? -- Gary K, Augusta, Maine

[A] The Essential Britney Spears is a three-CD set that came out during a twixt-CGs hiatus in 2014. I don't own it and have no desire ever to hear it; I mean, it's three CDs. As elsewhere noted, I seldom think the word "bitch" is funny or cool or ironic or whatever you believe it to be in this context. I suggest abjuring it in perpetuity. [Correction: it seems to be a two-CD set. I still don't feel I need to hear it.]

[Q] Why do you think Johnny Ramone said punk was inherently right-wing? Is it true? -- Dave Darren, New Jersey

[A] Because Johnny himself was a right-winger and right-wingers lie about everything. Obviously the vast majority of punks who had politics were lefties--to choose the most obvious, the Clash, the Dead Kennedys, riot grrrl, on and on and on. You are aware, right, that Joey wrote "The KKK Took My Baby Away" about Johnny?

August 24, 2022

And It Don't Stop.

The greatest jazz composer as a player, considering Zappa and 'Pet Sounds,' the internet's capacity for evil, Christian nationalists' capacity for same, and thoughts not from the killing floor.

[Q] You reviewed Duke Ellington This One's for Blanton, but never even mentioned his late masterpiece (it seems) The Afro-Eurasian Eclipse, which Gary Giddins called one of his favorite albums of the '70s (and I thank him for the recommendation). Have you heard it? What did you think? I also thank you. I'm very happy that you were there on internet back in the hard times to help me fall in love with music again. I didn't have any grandfathers, so at times it felt like you are one to me, revealing the secrets only grandfathers know. Also, any other writing is a breeze after yours. It's kind of a compliment. -- Mark, Russia

[A] Believe me, I know it's a compliment, and I always thank an internet for which I'm by no means always grateful when readers from a far-off culture tell me I've hipped them to some music that's brightened and deepened their lives. As you're not obliged to be aware though it's no secret, my tastes in jazz--which I've enjoyed since I was a teenager without ever developing anything remotely approaching the encyclopedic knowledge of my old colleague and longtime friend Giddins, in my opinion the greatest jazz critic who ever lived--run almost exclusively small-group. I like the interactive spontaneous multi-individuality of quartets and quintets especially. This One's for Blanton is of course a duet record featuring Ellington and the great bassist Ray Brown. It offers a rare chance to enjoy the spontaneous "understatement" and "extravagance" of the greatest jazz composer as a player.

[Q] Your opinions on early Frank Zappa records vary quite a bit (Hot Rats only got a C while the Mothers of Invention's We're Only In It for the Money got an A) so it's hard to know what you think of the rest of his 1960s work. Maybe you admire his satire more than his music so I'd like to know if you're fond of any other Mothers albums such as his musical peak Uncle Meat or his doo-wop satire/tribute Cruising with Ruben and the Jets and what you think of the Mothers of Invention in general in terms of rock history? -- GK, Illinois

[A] Zappa was a highly intelligent but even more egotistical motherfucker who I enjoyed mostly for his comedy/satire when he surfaced during the hippie era. It was bracing amid all that air pudding. But spiritually, let's call it, his aversion to air pudding bespoke an emotionally stunted person whose cultural utility shrunk drastically once the fatuous side of the hippie dream turned into a sick joke that didn't need him. I enjoyed Ruben and the Jets' simultaneously fond and satirical doowop, but relistening find its affection imperfectly realized and its satire shallow and racially suspect, in part because my respect for doowop itself has only deepened with the years. Similarly, I know many jazz-prone rock fans who adore his guitar, especially on Hot Rats. Me, I much prefer Stevie Ray Vaughan and Tom Verlaine, not to mention the inexhaustible Hendrix, and cannot offhand name a single jazz guitarist including George Benson and Jim Hall who means anything to me.

[Q] Rolling Stone's Top 500 albums of all time list ranked The Beach Boys' Pet Sounds as #2 with only Marvin Gaye's What's Going On above it. Your "hits plus filler" review of the Gaye explains why you only gave that one a B+ but you've never reviewed or even written about Pet Sounds to my knowledge. You have said that Wild Honey is your favorite BB album but us BB fans would sure love to know what you think of Pet Sounds--and Friends too for that matter as those two are considered Brian Wilson's musical peaks. Probably they're not A+ to you but do they at least earn an A- from the Dean? -- Lee M, NYC

[A] I don't know about Friends but sure Pet Sounds is at least an A minus. That said, it sounded better on Joe Levy's superb sound system after he cooked us dinner Sunday night (great editor, great cook) than it did on my good one at breakfast--as he pointed out, the Spector-inflected production meshes thrillingly with Wilson's rather less grand proclivities. But Joe was a teenager when he caught up with Pet Sounds, and therefore responded with more excitement than I could have to its aurally-enhanced emotional complexity. At 23, I found such complexities elsewhere--in both Thelonious Monk and the Rolling Stones, for starters. The Beach Boys I love are the surf-oriented adolescent hedonists of Endless Summer and also the low-Brian Wild Honey, which I can at least claim to have been on much earlier than most critics and which also featured prominently in the early weeks of my lifetime with Carola Dibbell.

[Q] What do you think of Neil Young and Joni Mitchell boycotting Spotify? On one hand U think it's good they stand up for a cause, but it's also REALLY going to limit their popularity among younger people. -- Sebastian, Santiago, Chile

[A] I think it's great--well-known artists publicly calling attention to the internet's capacity for evil, while obviously of limited practical utility, automatically enriches the conversation and sours by just a miniquantum their admirers' trust of and tolerance for online information. Me, I can't do my work without Spotify, so I continue to use it. Can't do my work without Amazon Prime's overnight delivery either. But I do what I can to purchase books and meds and other stuff elsewhere.

[Q] Why was important to mention in the response to Stan Greer's question that the man had an Italian surname? -- Mark Carpentieri, Suffolk County

[A] Funny you should ask, because my editor tried to get me to omit it. Answer's simple, as I can't imagine you didn't guess. I remember that his surname was Italian because to me that indicated Roman Catholic, which in 1969 was the religion most ardently opposed to what I'll just call family planning. Indeed, not even Pope Francis, who I admire enormously, has lifted the RC ban on contraception that increasingly few Catholics obey. I mean, this doctor (presumably an intern) was a menace, claiming that his refusal to release the young woman was medical while at the same time actively hostile to both the patient and the two hippies who were trying to spring her before he could summon not senior medical advice but the law. And he was clearly appalled by Ellen Willis, who was formidable and unyielding in argument as for many men at that time and quite a few today no woman should have the temerity to be. I no longer recall how we brazened our way out, but the verbal battle was pretty brutal. These days, of course, Christian nationalists are the fiercest bullies on this subject, passing more and more sadistic, misogynistic anti-abortion laws in state legislatures, and if you'd told us in 1969 that Roe v Wade would change American law in a few years we wouldn't have believed it.

[Q] I'm interested in your take on white people listening to black music. I'm not trying to open cans of worms here, I'm prompted by something I read (from Frederick Joseph?) about not pretending to understand a culture you have no way of understanding. I can discern artistry in words and music, but I've never been on the killing floor or lived in a food desert. -- Tincanman, British Columbia

[A] Since a substantial proportion of the music I write about is created by Black people, this is clearly a question loaded with worms. Books can be written on such subjects, and many have been. But just for starters let me make a few points. Most important, "black music" is gross if often unavoidable shorthand. Is all music created by Black people "black music" no matter the intentions of its creators? Is it all "black" in the same way? Is that way the music's sole aim and total meaning? In creating it is a Black musician intending to define or express Black culture or merely expressing his or her own vision of the world and formal relationship to music, which is probably inflected by his or her Blackness but presumably not limited to it because he or she is also a human individual not all of whose uniqueness is bound up with experiences he or she shares with other Black people--and not all of whom have ever lived in a food desert or worked on the killing floor. Moreover, the vast majority of those musicians would just as soon sell their music to humans of every racial orientation. In listening to this music is a white person pretending to "understand" Black culture? As indicated, I could go on for pages; many have, not all of them Black. But instead I suggest you make an effort to clarify your thinking while you continue to listen to "black music" whatever your own racial heritage and/or orientation.

July 20, 2022

And It Don't Stop.

Francophone bias, loving the '90s without loving grunge, quoting a misogynist without endorsing a misogynist, B sides, don't stop can't stop won't stop, and a few words from the estimable C.D.

[Q] Hi Bob, hope you and Carola are doing well, back here with another question: is there any reason why you've never reviewed Jacques Brel? To me at least he seems to be one of the major artists of the 20th century and one of the greatest live-performers, aside from being a vocal powerhouse. Please don't tell me that's just my Belgian bias. -- Arthur Hendrikx, Brussels, Vlaams-Brabant, Belgium

[A] It's not your Belgian bias, it's your Francophone bias, only calling it a bias would diminish it egregiously--that's not a bias, it's a power or capability. You speak French, but though I can read a little French when necessary, I can't hear it. So while my wife's great ear extends to foreign languages, not just French but also Spanish and even once when we were lost south of Rome Italian, I can't begin to hear Brel's lyrics. Hence I've never even played her Brel because I've tried a few times and know I don't get him. In French chanson especially, this is a major deficit, because French chanson is more logocentric than any other popular music I'm aware of. I have little doubt he's the titan you say he is--certainly his reputation is absolutely tops. But not in my physical and hence intellectual experience.

[Q] Why do you hate grunge and early '90s music in general? The only alternative artist that you've bestowed an A rating on is Nirvana, which of course is not controversial. Does this stem from being a crotchety old man by the time the Gen Xers began to take over the content or is it more related to being a New York hipster who predictably favours the children of the CBGB scene? I think it's time to give credit where it is long overdue. -- KG, Oslo

[A] I certainly don't hate early '90s music. Skipping hip-hop and for purposes of argument overlooking snobby New Yorkers like Sonic Youth and Yo La Tengo, how about Pavement, PJ Harvey, Archers of Loaf, Los Lobos/Latin Playboys, Liz Phair, L7, the Chills, My Bloody Valentine, Hole, the Pixies? True, there are many wimmin in there, not to mention, ulp, Latinos. "Early '90s" they all were, however. As for grunge, I don't hate it, I just don't like it that much, which is different--it tends too dark, too melodramatic, and even so I was always OK with the grunge-adjacent Pearl Jam. But as I put it in my Lenny Kaye review a few months ago: Seattle was "an overcast burg with a 'metal undercurrent' and more heroin ODs than a primal animal can stand." I had many good times there when it was the home of the pop conference. But I'll never love the Melvins.

[Q] Will you be reviewing the Harry Smith B-sides box set that came out in late 2020? Although it's certainly an historic archival release, I question its playability as compared to the canonical Anthology of American Folk Music which got a rare A+ from you. If you've played it through a few times, I'd be curious how you enjoyed it. Thanks. -- Chris, New York City

[A] I bought it, for big shekels, and played it several times without ever being moved to write about it. I may yet, of course. But its word-of-mouth in my tiny corner of the musical universe is nothing special. They don't call 'em B sides for nothing.

[Q] I have been a fan of your music criticism for decades. As a pro-life political conservative (with libertarian leanings on immigration), I don't expect to agree with hardly anything you say about politics, but I do expect you to have some awareness of the facts. Your slam at Justice Alito for citing Matthew Hale in your Lookback is incredibly ignorant. As many have pointed out, liberal justices whom I assume you would never accuse of tolerating misogyny have cited Hale quite recently. A lot of his views are unacceptable to many people today. I am confident your advocacy of unrestricted abortion on demand will be regarded by virtually everyone as barbaric in the not-too-distant future. But in that future, it would be stupid to assume that, because of your grave errors on certain topics, you shouldn't be cited about any matter. -- Stan Greer, Fairfax, Virginia

[A] That a few of what I presume is the usual phalanx of radical-right disinformation warriors have spread the news that the likes of Justice Kagan has been known to cite the same prominent 18th century British misogynist jurist Alito quotes in his barbaric abortion decision doesn't mean she was endorsing said misogynist. It means that Kagan is doing what debaters do: saying "See, even this famous 18th-century proto-ultracon agrees with me, so why don't apprentice proto-ultracons like Brett and Clarence do the same?" She's pretty sure it won't work, but anything is worth a try and maybe she'll even make them so mad they'll flash their dicks and she can snap a quick pic and get them in trouble. FWIW, as the boyfriend of organizer Ellen Willis I attended the inaugural March 1969 abortion speakout at Washington Square Methodist Church (without, you bet, opening my mouth). A month or so later I helped Willis sign out a young woman who'd recently had an abortion from Bellevue, where a young internist with an Italian surname fought to detain her, presumably until he could get her in trouble with the law. Willis prevailed--she was tough. The woman slept on our couch that night and was fine next morning. Researching Going Into the City, I found in my files a sheet of yellow paper listing doctors who'd do abortions in the Northeast. I know many women who've had abortions. As it happens, every one my wife and I could think of also raised children and did a great job of it too.

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