“When I was about twelve, I heard boogie-woogie for the first time and fell in love with it.
My folks had bought a piano for show, and I bought a book of boogie-woogie and taught myself to play it, more or less.
He wants a sociology that observes the way people act around each other as they really do, without expectations about how they ought to.
Over the decades, this has led him to do close, almost novelistic studies of jazz musicians, medical students, painters, and photographers.
Guys would come in from the hybrid-seed-corn convention and spend three or four thousand dollars buying drinks for the girls.
Then they’d go away happy.”He planned to get a graduate degree in English while continuing his jazz life, and then one day he stumbled on a new book, “Black Metropolis: A Study of Negro Life in a Northern City”—the northern city being Chicago—by St. It was one of the first in-depth studies of contemporary urban life.
His work is required reading in many French universities, even though it seems to be a model of American pragmatism, preferring narrow-seeming “How? ) The book is both a jocular personal testament of faith and a window into Becker’s beliefs.
His accomplishment is hard to summarize in a sentence or catchphrase, since he’s resolutely anti-theoretical and suspicious of “models” that are too neat.
have often had strange and serendipitous careers in Paris, from Thomas Evans, the Philadelphia dentist who cured Emperor Louis-Napoleon of a toothache and became an indispensable ornament of the Imperial court, to those African-American jazzmen, like the great soprano-sax player Sidney Bechet, whose careers were revived, and reputations nurtured, in France in ways they never could have been in America.
But few have known an odder trajectory than Howie—“Only my mother ever called me Howard”—Becker. Becker, to give him his full, honorary-degree name—he has six—has been a major figure in American sociology for more than sixty years.