Kevin Courrier (1954-2018)
Kevin Courrier, editor, colleague, and friend, died on October 12, after a three-year fight with cancer. It was a good fight, and as packed full as he could make it of his mainstays—music, writing, friends, experience. Kevin was for many years a producer of music documentaries for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation; he later hosted an arts show on Toronto radio; conducted a perennially popular film seminar at Ryerson University; and wrote numerous books on music—among them the 33.3 on Trout Mask Replica, a study of Frank Zappa, and a critical biography of Randy Newman which no less than Greil Marcus in Mystery Train called “the” book on its subject. We began corresponding a number of years ago: we’d both written books about the Beatles that came out about the same time, and we shared a lot of ideas on the subject. Then he invited me to contribute to Critics at Large, the online arts journal he’d founded with two other Torontonians who, like him, were fed up with the limits placed by commerce on critical writing and thinking.
Under his leadership, CAL has been a place where we can write what we want, when we want, at whatever length we want, and know that it will have its place in a corner of the Internet, there to be found today, tomorrow, or five years from now by whomever was meant to find it. I always envied Kevin his ears: those rare, truly gifted ears that want to hear everything—jazz, classical, avant-garde, pop, rock, prog, freaks on the fringe, the lot. He knew more about music than I will ever know, not because he sought to contain it in data or have the biggest record collection on the block, but because he loved it that much and his curiosity was that boundless. I spent a day or two getting my wind back after hearing of Kevin’s death, but I felt no sadder than Kevin or any decent person would have wanted their friends to feel. I was mainly thinking, as I do now, about how thoroughly wonderful it was to meet him in Toronto two summers ago, to spend time with him alone as well as with the CAL group, and to hear from his own mouth the story of almost tripping John Lennon backstage at Maple Leaf Gardens after the Beatles’ concert there in 1966. I wish I’d had more moments with Kevin, but add up all the moments he had with all his friends—and he had many—and you realize this man now consists in millions of molecules of memory, spinning and floating all over the place. They belong to each of us and all of us. So long, Kevin, see you when I see you.
Here are some words from Kevin’s colleague and mine, Steve Vineberg, and a selection of some of Kevin’s best work for Critics at Large.