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Paul Nelson RIP

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  • Barry Mazor
    Paul Nelson (1936-2006) Contributor and editor wrote influential pieces on Warren Zevon, Jackson Browne, signed the New York Dolls Former Rolling Stone
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 10, 2006
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      Paul Nelson (1936-2006)
      Contributor and editor wrote influential pieces on Warren Zevon, Jackson Browne, signed
      the New York Dolls

      Former Rolling Stone contributor and record reviews editor Paul Nelson was found dead in
      his New York City apartment last week. He was sixty-nine years old. The Warren,
      Minnesota native was a member of an influential generation of reviewers that included
      Greil Marcus, Lester Bangs and Dave Marsh, and he also briefly worked in A&R in the early
      Seventies, signing the New York Dolls.

      Nelson founded the first magazine of the American folk revival, Little Sandy Review, in the
      early Sixties. He knew Bob Dylan at the University of Minnesota and first heard his music
      while the legendary singer-songwriter was still performing under the name Bobby
      Zimmerman. He was first published in Rolling Stone in 1969 -- the story was about the
      formation of the Band, published that February -- and he continued to be a regular
      contributor for the next decade and a half, in the Seventies going on to edit the review
      section.

      Greil Marcus says Nelson asked a lot of each record he played: "Would it raise the
      possibility that you could think differently, respond differently, feel differently about the
      dilemmas of love or money, success and failure? Was the singer telling you something that
      perhaps you didn't know, or was he or she flattering you that you already knew all you or
      anyone needed to know? He had a phrase in the late Seventies: 'the rock wars.' Music had
      barely begun to talk about loneliness, suicide, the toughness needed to say everything you
      had to say in the turn of a line or the way a melody broke. Paul's role? A scout, behind
      enemy lines, reporting back." Longterm contributor David Fricke says of Nelson, his first
      editor at the magazine, "He was the perfect definition of 'mentor' -- someone who
      recognized talent, gave it a chance and made vital helpful criticism in terms of language
      and perspective. I learned a lot from Paul not just about expressing one's passions and
      opinions, but how to formulate them and make them live on the page."

      In addition to his work for the magazine -- including seminal writings on Seventies
      recordings by Dylan and Neil Young -- Nelson collaborated with Lester Bangs on a 1988
      biography of Rod Stewart.

      In the early Seventies, Nelson worked as an A&R man at Mercury Records, where in
      addition to signing the Dolls, he compiled the important, two-CD Velvet Underground
      anthology, Velvet Underground 1969 -- a collection of previously unreleased live tapes
      made by Robert Quine at the Matrix in San Francisco. Nelson was also an unofficial scout
      of exceptional talent: He was an early supporter in print of Jackson Browne, Warren Zevon,
      the singer-songwriter Elliott Murphy and the solo Dolls frontman David Johansen.

      In the early Nineties, Nelson wrote for Musician magazine, contributing features on Freedy
      Johnston, Suzanne Vega and Chet Baker, and was a copy editor at Jewish Week. A film buff,
      he became friends with Martin Scorsese, and in recent years worked at an independent
      video store in New York and was completing a screenplay.



      PS from Barry: Little Sandyshouldn't really be called the first folk revival pub, however;
      Sing Out was already there then. But Little Sandy was probably more of a predecessor to
      ther ock pubs to come.)
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