RIP: Ken Nordine, 1920-2019

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The Grammy-nominated Ken Nordine had a magic voice and an imagination to match. His voice launched 1,000 radio shows, commercials, movie trailers and spoken-word records. Nordine died on Saturday (February 16) at his home in the northside Chicago suburb of Edgewater. He was 98 years old.

I was introduced to Nordine via Word Jazz, the first of his series of spoken word-meets-jazz albums. A dozen years after the album’s release in 1957, I was getting dressed for my senior prom when the DJ on underground FM radio station WYSL played “Flibberty Jib,” and I was stopped dead in my tracks, totally begoggled. A year later I found a copy of Word Jazz for just $.50 at the Woolworth’s in Stuyvesant Plaza. I felt like a prospector who had just discovered a gold mine.

Over the years, Nordine collaborated with such musicians as David Bowie, Jerry Garcia and Tom Waits; dancer Fred Astaire; “Muppets” creator Jim Henson; and avant-garde multimedia artist Laurie Anderson, to name just a few.

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