Barnett Berger: A Rare Soul

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In a community of Brooklyn writers, it is perhaps fitting that Barnett Berger was first met on a bus route, the No. 71, which no longer exists.  He was carrying an old book that likely shares the same fate.

He explained that he spoke slowly because he’d suffered a stroke.  But his careful, unhurried speech…reminiscent of some smoky beat-generation coffee house of long ago…became his signature sound.  The drawn-out strains of classic jazz, which he lived for and listened to as he wrote, could be heard clearly as he read his poetry in his characteristic drawl.  We were once or twice able to guess the piece that had inspired a poem before he told us its name.

This music was Barnett’s life, his love for it so pure that his belief that he didn’t have the talent to play it only fueled his commitment to it as an ardent fan.  For Barnett, music was life’s all and everything, the very reason for our existence.  Like a consummately attentive lover, he appreciated the subtlest differences between recordings of the same work.  He knew his facts but would share them quietly, full of reverence for the mystery from which all art is born.

Was he contemplating such thoughts…all the things that exist in the present and all the things that now exist only in the past…when he was struck by a car and died?

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3 thoughts on “Barnett Berger: A Rare Soul

  1. Sue,

    Sorry but this certainly sounds like my old college friend Barney M Berger. We shared a love for jazz and blues and stayed in touch for years after college. I thing the last time I spoke to him was about 10 years ago and he didn’t seem quite the same . . . so perhaps he had already had his stroke which I knew nothing about. I can’t find an obituary on line and if you have a copy I’m sure a few of his friends that I am still in touch with would like to know. I just tried the telephone number for Barney and he had the same number going back for probably 40 years and it is now out of service. Anything you can tell me about him would be nice to share with his some of his old friends from Long Island University.


    • I am very sorry to have been the bearer of such sad tidings! Barnett (as he had us call him, rather than ever once referring to himself as Barney) WAS a rare soul and a tragic lose. Though I’m not making it public here, my site has supplied me with your email address. Do I have your permission to share it with Barnett’s brother in the hope that he can share more information with you? In the meantime, thank you for sharing your experiences and memories…

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