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Online Tributes to Paul Nelson (1936-2006)

Some online tributes to Paul Nelson following the news of his death, plus some reprints of his work.


  • Pete Scholtes has put together a superb, loving tribute at City Pages, including recollections by Dave Marsh, Greil Marcus, and Tony Glover. "The man who emerges in the following obituaries by Tony Glover, Dave Marsh, and Greil Marcus is a hermetic perfectionist. He hadn't written for years—when eMusic editor Michael Azerrad tried to assign him something about bluegrass recently, Nelson demurred, saying he loved the music too much to do it justice. Nelson spent much of his later life working at Evergreen Video in Greenwich Village. Friends say he was suffering from memory problems. He apparently died of starvation."

  • Paul Nelson (1936-2006). Rolling Stone obit: "Contributor and editor wrote influential pieces on Warren Zevon, Jackson Browne, signed the New York Dolls..."

  • Jon Pareles pays tribute in the New York Times: "Bobby Zimmerman, a songwriter from Hibbing, Minn., who was working at local coffeehouses, sought out Mr. Nelson after seeing the magazine. 'He had a whole lot of records which probably couldn't be found anywhere else in the Midwest,' Bob Dylan, formerly Mr. Zimmerman, said in the 2005 documentary No Direction Home. At one point, when he knew Mr. Nelson was out of town for the weekend, Mr. Dylan dropped by his house and, he said, 'helped myself to a bunch more records.' About 25 disappeared from Mr. Nelson's collection, providing songs for Mr. Dylan's early repertory."

  • Paul Nelson, 70; Former Critic for Rolling Stone. LA Times obit, by Claire Noland. "As record reviews editor at Rolling Stone, he championed the albums of singer-songwriters such as Jackson Browne as well as punk rockers the Sex Pistols and the Ramones. He also wrote longer pieces, including one in 1981 on Warren Zevon and his struggle with alcoholism."

  • Kate C at Red Peonies: "But, unlike many a NYC video story, [Evergreen] never snear when you rent a Hollywood blockbuster or a whole season of a t.v. show. Among the young friendly hipsters, there was an older, craggy man, kind of grumpy but always helpful. Once, I overheard one of the other clerks telling a customer the older man was a once-famous rock critic named Paul Nelson who was instrumental in Bob Dylan's early career. Sure enough, when Martin Scorsese's Dylan documentary came out last fall, there was the man from the video store being interviewed..."

  • Remembering Paul Nelson by Ken Tucker: "...he was a remarkable writer; his prose had a quality of lucid calm with an undercurrent of deep passion. You never read even the smallest capsule record review by Paul without knowing immediately that he had listened to that music over and over..."

  • Paul Nelson Has Left The Building at Tom Lunt's Geezers United: "A tragic loss made even more tragic by the inclusion of these words: 'behind the counter of Evergreen Video on Carmine Street, where he worked for years.'"

  • Kevin Avery at Lost in the Grooves: "I make lists. Before I moved to New York at the end of last year, I crafted a personal and professional to-do list. One item appeared near the top of both lists: reach out to critic Paul Nelson and let him know how much his work had meant to me. His writings, mostly for Rolling Stone and mostly about music (though occasionally movies and books, about which he was equally qualified to write), helped form what still stand today as my tastes in music, literature, and film. He not only made me want to be a critic, which I did for ten years, he made me want to write about music in a bigger context than just something that plays in the background or fills up the space between commercials on radio..."

  • Barbara Flaska (at Flaskaland): "...over the past few days, I've been reading here and there about Paul Nelson's long tenure writing for Rolling Stone magazine, and him splitting a hamburger (maybe cutting it right down the middle, I thought) to share with fellow writer Dave Marsh in the old days, and how he might have really gone off to pasture and work for meager wages at a video store in Greenwich Village..."

  • Michael Gray (author of The Bob Dylan Encyclopedia): "A quiet salute to two writers, one who has just died and one who hasn't. Paul Nelson, co-founder with Jon Pankake of Little Sandy Review back when Dylan was scuffling around in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis-St.Paul, was found dead on July 5, according to the New York Times. There's a respectful entry on him in The Bob Dylan Encyclopedia; sadly, it needs updating now. But the birthdate it gives for him, January 21, 1936, is correct--so he reached the age of 70, not 69 as all the obits seem to have said. One more No Direction Home interviewee gone..."

  • Paul Nelson...The native of Warren, Minn., wrote for Rolling Stone and was a talent scout for Mercury Records. By Jon Bream at the Star-Tribune: "Bob Dylan and the New York Dolls are rarely mentioned in the same sentence, but they need to be when surveying the career of Paul Nelson, an influential Minnesota-bred music critic and talent scout."

  • Warren Leming Remembers Paul Nelson at Wilderness Road: "He knew everybody, and loved New York's haunts, music dives, scenes, and scuttle butt. He paid a price for his integrity: he lived the last ten years of his life cut off from mainstream criticism--i.e. as the mags, and rags went corporate and pandering became a way of life--he found his stock had fallen with the trendies who often come to edit and deform what they themselves cannot describe."

  • Musician Elliott Murphy has posted some thoughts about Paul on his website: "He also came to many of my shows at Tramps in the 80's. It was a time when Bruce Springsteen was exploding and I was going through a rough patch. As he was leaving Tramps one night he turned to me and said 'It could have gone either way.' I'm not sure if he was right but his sentiment was always sincere and the serioiusness in which he treated my work has served as my artistic compass to this day. We use to eat burgers together at Jackson Hole in New York City and I bought his collection of F. Scott Fitzgerald first editions when he needed cash. I spoke to him by telephone a few years ago and he told me he was working on a screenplay for a detective movie. I always wanted to see him again sometime..."

  • Ron Oberman Remembers Paul Nelson, at Wilderness Road: "It was in 1969, I believe, that the Mercury New York publicist decided to leave. I had to find another person to fill the job. After much thought, I decided that Paul Nelson could make a great publicist. In my own mind, I knew it was a bit of an odd choice. Paul was very low key and reserved, and was not a salesman. But, he did have much credibility as a music writer and critic, and I felt that would go a long way in his dealings with other music writers."


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    Paul Nelson reprints:

  • Warren Zevon's Resurrection: How he saved himself from a coward's death (Rolling Stone, 1981)

  • Review of The Ramones (Rolling Stone, 1976)

  • Review of Loners and Other Strangers (Rolling Stone, 1975)

  • Review of Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols (Rolling Stone, 1977...scroll down)

  • Review of The Basement Tapes (Rolling Stone, 1975)

  • Review of Some Girls (Rolling Stone, 1978)

  • Review of Rust Never Sleeps (Rolling Stone, 1979)

  • Review of Running on Empty (Rolling Stone, 1978)


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  • Paul Nelson Tribute, Part 1 (Steven Ward, Bud Scoppa, Debra Rae Cohen, Billy Altman, Richard Riegel, Jonathan Lethem)

  • Paul Nelson Tribute, Part 2 (Robert Christgau, Chip Stern, David McGee, Danny Goldberg, Kurt Loder, Fred Schruers, Deborah Frost)

  • Previously unpublished interview with Paul Nelson, by Jim DeRogatis (April 1997)

  • What Ever Happened to Rock Critic Paul Nelson? (rockcritics.com interview, by Steven Ward, 2000)