Ed Bradley (1941-2006) was a class act: a correspondent, an author, and an advocate for people of color for his entire life. He “afflicted the comfortable and comforted the afflicted.” He never sold out and he never backed down, but he was smart and tough enough to fight his battles and find his friends, on ground of his own choosing.
He also had brass balls. He was a public school teacher in
He won 19 Emmys, and even though he was ghettoized every time Wallace/et al were scared to talk to Al Sharpton or Bob Dylan or Muhammad Ali, even though he was always treated as the junior partner, he carried it with grace and style. And he didn’t take any crap from Martians, to quote Michael Herr. Chris Rock put it best, in speaking about Ed’s interview with a Michael Jackson long-gone into delusion and psychosis: “Ed Bradley looked at Michael Jackson like ‘N*****, is you CRAZY?!?”
He was also, for his entire career, a voice for Ellington’s “Great Black Music,” hosting the Jazz at Lincoln Center program, and appearing at many festivals and on TV specials. And one night he sat in with Art, Aaron, Charles, and Cyril Neville at Tipitina’s, who knew another Brother when they saw one.
Big Easy loopiness meets
There’s the best backup band the Brothers (profiled in “100 Greats” #29) ever had, with Brian Stoltz on guitar, Tony Hall on bass, and the great Willie Green, spiritual heir to Zigaboo Modeliste, on drums. The Dirty Dozen Brass Band has laid down the groove the way bands have been laying it down for the second-liners for over a hundred years, Bonnie Raitt has demonstrated once again that there’s no “sell-by” date for Sexy, Buckwheat Zydeco has proven, with My Ya-Ya, that dumb is no impediment in New Orleans, and even Jimmy Buffett has rekindled his Afro-Caribbean roots (Jimmy can step out when he’s not playing for yuppies; who knew?).
And out lopes Big Ed, dressed in a purple shirt and a pair of deep-pleated pants, the diamond stud winking in his ear, to cakewalk, inevitably, through Sixty Minute Man, with a beautiful
This essay is for Ed, who never backed down from who he was but never settled either. He was a good friend to The Music and to his people.
He was a gallant gentleman.
[13 Mar 08 ETA: and, in the wake of his death, his New Orleans friends who loved him sent him home in the grand old way: with a Second Line parade from the Treme Brass Band:]