Ken Nordine dies at 98; radio announcer & influential “Word Jazz” artist

Ken Nordine had a voice that launched 1,000 radio shows, commercials, movie trailers and spoken-word records.
The Edgewater resident, who died Saturday, was 98.

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Mr. Nordine’s voice was a dulcet earworm that burrowed into the subconscious during more than 40 years of performing “Word Jazz,’’ a midnight show on WBEZ that showcased his hep-cat persona, stream-of-consciousness wordplay and psychedelic sound effects, such as a slowed-down clock or dripping water.
The Grammy-nominated Mr. Nordine worked with musicians David Bowie, Jerry Garcia and Tom Waits; “Muppets” creator Jim Henson, and avant-garde multimedia artist Laurie Anderson.

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Nordine’s instantly recognizable vocal delivery—a rich basement tone that carried equal parts omen and humor—was a favorite of hipsters, radio listeners, jazz fans, poets, and college stoners, particularly during a run of surreal albums starting in the 1950s. Unusual song titles like “I Used to Think My Right Hand Was Uglier Than My Left” or “Flibberty Jib” became vehicles for Nordine’s improvisational approach to poetry, often backed by a small jazz combo.

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