Senior Lecturer, English
Author. Critic. Jim DeRogatis says it’s “a privilege to work with kids who are so eager to get out there.”
In music journalism and music criticism, Jim DeRogatis, senior lecturer in the English department, is a pioneer and a legend.
He’s written for numerous nationwide magazines, including Spin, Guitar World, Penthouse and GQ—not to mention doing a brief stint in the 1990s as a senior editor at Rolling Stone, which ended after his negative review of Hootie and the Blowfish was swapped for a more favorable one.
A Bang-Up Job
Born in Jersey City, New Jersey, in 1964, DeRogatis developed a knack for writing and a deep appreciation for rock music while still in high school. As a fresh-faced student at New York University, he was able to interview his hero, musician and music critic Lester Bangs, who died two weeks later. But DeRogatis followed the story for several more years to write his first book, Let It Blurt: The Life and Times of Lester Bangs, America’s Greatest Rock Critic, published in 2000.
“More than any rock musician, [Bangs] was really a hero to me because of the way he brought rock ’n’ roll alive on the page,” DeRogatis says.
Like Bangs’ approach to music criticism, DeRogatis’ style is creative, honest and often brutal. He’s never been afraid to say things as he sees them, and he’s been known to offend many in the recording industry. “I’m from Jersey, so why mince words?” he says.
Worth a Thousand Words
As a professor, DeRogatis says he wants to inspire students to get excited about their craft—much as Bangs did for him.
“I always tell my students that a great food writer can write a thousand words on a glass of milk,” DeRogatis says. “I can’t do that, but I know how to do it for music, and hopefully I can help you become a better writer. I don’t care if you love a movie or hate a movie, and I disagree with you. That’s irrelevant. It’s the power of writing [that matters].”
He says the urban atmosphere and in-the-field professors at Columbia remind him of his time at NYU. But, more than anything, the “in your face” students get him excited about his work.
“The energy, enthusiasm, diversity of interest … the fire in the belly that I get any time I’m in front of any class at Columbia just feels like home,” says DeRogatis. “It’s a privilege to work with kids who are so eager to get out there.”