The death of an American (Spectator) original.
On Tuesday we received word that our beloved columnist, Larry Henry, died on Monday, February 9 — his 61st birthday — at Youville Hospital in Cambridge, Massachusetts, of complications of kidney disease. It was a condition about which he wrote soberly, expertly, and terrifyingly, yet always with utter clarity and not without his characteristic American and human charm. Now you know why for the longest time I found it a most reassuring pleasure to append this bioline to his Friday columns, “Lawrence Henry writes every week from North Andover, Massachusetts.” Whatever his condition, no one wielded a healthier pen.
Just as we revived our website in early 2002, Larry came along, a Godsend. He wrote like a dream, and his interests were ultra-catholic: politics, family, church, community, books, golf, tennis, holidays, business, economics, America, old cars, fruitcakes, life. He came from all over. Born in South Dakota, high school in Minnesota, college in New York, PR and other work in Los Angeles, rock band tours wherever. He’d been hellish in his youth, rough on father (his “My Vietnam War” could be the finest thing of its kind), just one of many rough patches. By the time I knew him he was serene, with beautiful wife and children, and soon to move from the Garden State to Massachusetts. I was sad for him then — no one had ever described a lovelier New Jersey.
But he didn’t leave before also taking an appropriate shot at Sen. Robert Torricelli — and in so doing he revealed something about his own troubling health. It was a gun to his head, yet he functioned regardless, forever busy, pursuing countless interests, paying attention to everything around him, filing impeccable fresh copy every week, sometimes twice a week. Simply remarkable.
I met him only twice, once when he was visiting his sister in Northern Virginia — he saw Jed Babbin the same afternoon we met — then a few years later a day or two after Christmas, at a Borders, this time in the company of his sweet younger son, Joe. His arm was in a sling, one of the side-effects of a daily life — now requiring frequent dialysis — that he endured without complaint. He could still drive, after all. I walked him to his car, one of those big old American contraptions, as I recall, and he seemed happy as heck as he and Joe drove off.
In the early 1970s, Larry Henry authored a slim volume for Scholastic on the mechanics of songwriting entitled, Rock and Roll Songwriter’s Handbook. Typical of Larry, the book was a multidimensional work. It might help you write a decent tune or live a fuller life…or both. Everything was in the mix. “Anything that takes so little effort to create demands even less energy to appreciate,” Henry advised. “A cliché will surprise your listener so little that he won’t even hear it. If you need to communicate, you need to be original.”
Larry lived his word. He was nothing if not original — and he was something, indeed, so that settles that. Readers became acquainted with his singular voice and intellect through sparkling, wide-ranging columns exploring love, life, regret, politics, illness, faith, the little things, the big things, the minute, the transcendent.
Again, it was all in the mix.
I myself was privileged enough to know the man a bit; to experience first hand the generous spirit, encouragement and personal kindness Larry extended freely, even while carrying the burden of a fierce, sadly implacable illness. I’ve also had the distinct honor of meeting his remarkable, lovely wife, Sally, as well as his beloved sons, Bud and Joe — brilliant, unique little guys, whom Larry had taught, in true Rock and Roll Songwriter’s Handbook style, the importance of not only doing the hard work necessary to internalize the backbeat of the rules, immutable truths and wisdom accumulated by humankind between the vast expanse of time immemorial and our comparative eye-blink of a life, but also the joy and freedom of having the ability to improvise in an uncertain world. Larry was that kind of guy.
I couldn’t be more sorry they’ve lost a husband and father. Yet I take a measure of comfort knowing such great living testimonies to Larry will carry on beyond him.
Larry Henry was better than his time, certainly, and while I don’t think his writing has (thus far) received near the attention or acclaim it deserves, it speaks very highly of The American Spectator and its Editorial Director Wlady Pleszczynski that Henry found an enthusiastic home at the magazine. Larry was proud of the affiliation. We should be prouder that Larry saw fit to hang his shingle here.
Once after some falafel, Larry took me to one of his favorite stores, Brookline News and Gift — a crazy place, overflowing with oddities and novelties, clearly organized around the idea that an intriguing mass trumped coherence. Larry slowly strolled the tight aisles, smiling as he leaned into get a closer look at the wonders of this or that shelf, perfectly content to go searching for the bric-a-brac in a curio haystack.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?