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Clarence Atkins: 1921-2004
Clarence Atkins

Born: April 1, 1921 in Jacksonville, FL
Died: October 18, 2004 in New York, NY

Jazz writer and historian

by Todd S. Jenkins
Copyright © 2004 Todd S. Jenkins

Longtime jazz writer and historian Clarence Atkins, who counted Malcolm X, Redd Foxx and Betty Carter among his friends, died of pancreatic cancer at North General Hospital in New York City no October 18, 2004, at the age of 83.

Born in Jacksonville, Florida on April 1, 1921, Atkins came to the Big Apple at 21. While working on his literature degree at Bethune-Cookman College, he worked as a waiter at the Waldorf-Astoria where he learned to monitor the pulse of life in the city's government and arts scene. Soon thereafter he became a music critic for publications like the Daily Challenge and Jazz Spotlight when bebop was still in its infancy. Eventually his resume expanded to include work for the Amsterdam News, New York Beacon, Jazziz and Jazz Times. Atkins also wrote liner notes for a number of artists.

Late in life Atkins suffered two strokes which slightly hindered his movement but did little to keep him out of the city's jazz clubs. Atkins is survived by his brother, Father Jarrette Atkins, and a few other relatives. A celebration of Atkins' life will be held at Harlem's Bethel A.M.E. Church on Saturday, November 13, 2004.

Todd S. Jenkins
Todd S. Jenkins is a member of the JJA, author of Free Jazz and Free Improvisation: An Encyclopedia (Greenwood Press, 2004) and I Know What I Know: The Music of Charles Mingus (Praeger, 2006), and a contributor to Down Beat, All About Jazz, American Songwriter and Route 66 Magazine.


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