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In Praise of Norman Corwin

As much as this blog is about progress in media and radio, it’s also about celebrating what makes that progress possible.  Progress lives and breathes thanks only to the tireless efforts of massively talented giants.

Norman Corwin is the ultimate radio giant.

Who is Corwin?  Probably the most famous creator in the history of radio.  How many radio people do you know who have directed Orson Welles and created radio’s final celebration and reflection on America’s role in World War II?

From Wikipedia:

His most famous work is On a Note of Triumph, a celebration of the Allied victory in Europe, first broadcast on VE Day, May 8, 1945. Corwin reports being on a train “somewhere near Albuquerque” when news of the end of the European war came to him. He had been planning to produce On a Note of Triumph as a morale booster for the men overseas. But the war with Germany had ended, and he doubted the network still wished to air it. Corwin called his network and expressed concern. CBS radio head William Paley sent a message to Corwin on the train …. “the President says, ‘now more than ever.’ “

60 million Americans heard that broadcast. 60 million Americans.

This past spring Norman Corwin celebrated his 100th birthday at USC, where Corwin remains on the faculty and continues to actively write and create.

This video is a slideshow that played during that event.  I’m sharing it with you because I was surprised, delighted, and incredibly honored to find my name in it.  Wow.

Norman Corwin praised by Carl Sandburg, Ray Bradbury, William Shatner, Larry King, Charles Kuralt, J. Michael Straczynski – and yours truly.

Some time ago I interviewed Corwin for this blog.  I invite you to listen to that conversation.  You will hear a radio legend’s radio legend.

I think it’s always encouraging to reflect on the magic of radio’s history because our present and future is always shaped by our past.  It is the Corwin standard that we should all strive to live up to, no matter what our platform of distribution is, no matter how enlightened our corporate owners are, no matter how trim our budgets or how many hats we’re forced to wear.

Radio can move people.  That’s why radio matters.  And if radio becomes nothing more than an easy and convenient and free utility, when it has no more emotional power than an equally ubiquitous toaster, I for one will find something else to do with my life.

Until then, let’s all earn this.

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