Rock and Beyond
During six decades, Christgau, 80, has shared his opinions of 17,700 albums by 7,770 artists on 3,500 labels. Although a recent knee replacement limits his attendance at concerts, he shows few signs of slowing down. After 37 years as a music reviewer for the Village Voice, followed by stints at Medium and Vice, Christgau in 2019 took his thoughts on rock, rap, and Harry Styles to Substack.
“What I am is a cult figure, and my cult missed my reviews,” says Christgau, in a characteristically brash take. “I just didn’t know if the cult would pay.” But thousands have subscribed to his newsletter, And It Don’t Stop, he says, at $60 per year. “I’m thriving economically by my very modest standards,” says the critic, who has lived in the same apartment in New York’s East Village since 1974. “We go out to eat more than we used to.”
On campus, the English major leaned toward jazz. But that changed when he discovered the Beatles during a hitchhiking trip to Berkeley, California. Christgau’s early reviews tended to focus on 1960s stalwarts. Among his first for the Voice’s long-running “Consumer Guide” column, in its July 1969 debut, was his mixed take on a Velvet Underground album. Christgau broadened his palate through the decades. A December 2022 pick, Sowal Diabi: From Kabul to Bamako, is a Middle East-inflected jazz mix woven with guitars, violins, and tabla-fueled beats.
“His way of looking at the world takes seriously all the things in popular culture that people use to define their lives and express their passions and pains,” says Joe Levy, Christgau’s manager.