Published Jan 28, 2010Howard Zinn, the rabble-rousing American social activist, historian, author and playwright, died of a heart attack on Wednesday (January 27) while travelling in Santa Monica, CA. He was 87.
Zinn, who managed to write an entire book - his most famous work, A People's History of the United States - about the history of the States from a leftist perspective, and make it incredibly readable, had no shortage of ties to the music world. His list of admirers includes the likes of Propagandhi (whose G7 Welcoming Committee released spoken-word CDs by Zinn and who named one of their tracks "A People's History of the World"), Bruce Springsteen and Resident Genius, who in 2005 collaborated with Zinn for You Can't Blow up A Social Relationship.
Zinn's ties to music don't end there. Most recently, in December, the History Channel showed a documentary based on A People's History, produced by Zinn and Matt Damon. The doc, like the book, gave a voice to people who fought for social change throughout the history of the U.S., and featured Bob Dylan and Springsteen, as well as Morgan Freeman, Viggo Mortenson and others.
Zinn grew up in Brooklyn in an immigrant, working-class family, and later famously joined the U.S. Air Force and flew a bomber during the WWII, events that turned him into the critical thinker he was. Once back home, Zinn got a PhD in history at Columbia University and worked alongside civil rights activists and fronted anti-war protests.
He went on to author over 20 books, including You Can't Be Neutral on a Moving Train and The Twentieth Century: A People's History. His books brought a readable, personable touch to the all-too-often impenetrable realm of leftist theory.