Saturday, February 28, 2009

The Last of the Story

Paul Harvey has died.

And with his passing, a radio era has ended.

For as long as I have listened to radio, there has been a Paul Harvey, the man whose gentle, personable baritone and impeccable timing epitomized the best that radio could be. When I was a child, I thought of him as a rural man, a voice of small towns and farms and grandparents. His advertisers seemed almost bucolic; his commentary focused on the small, the common, and the universal. He celebrated the average person, and he spoke of the average person with admiration, with authority... and with love. He was radio's Clark Kent, celebrating and defending the values that defined America as he saw it.

I assumed for many years that he was local, in fact; it wasn't until I was a teenager that I came to realize that he was a national figure, and his broadcasts (then on television and radio) were syndicated nationally. That led me to appreciate him a little more; he had found his audience and he spoke to them decades before shock jocks and iconoclasts made radio seem glamorous.

As I grew older, I learned to appreciate his technical expertise. He was a man who owned his time on the radio; he treasured every moment, and at the same time he was a demanding master who made every second pay for itself. He mastered the pause, the chuckle, the stressed syllable, the repetition, the intonation that made radio come to life.

His "The Rest of the Story" pieces were small audio masterworks--brief stories that brought moments of history to life. Had he done nothing else, these terse audio gems would have earned him a place in radio history.

In the past few years, I heard Paul Harvey's voice much less. The station that carried him for decades cast him off a few years ago, so the internet became the only way I could hear him. His voice was a bit more gravelly, a bit more tenorous with age... but it was still Paul Harvey, and there was no one like him.

Tonight, that voice has been silenced. Paul Harvey will tell no more stories... but there will be many who will tell stories about him, and celebrate what he accomplished and how he helped to shape radio as a medium.

Good night, Mister Harvey...


Lanny said...

Truly the end of an era.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Mr. Harvey, and rest well.

Good day.

-- Jack of Spades