Hilly Kristal, who founded CBGB, the Bowery bar that became the cradle of punk and art-rock in New York in the 1970s and served as the inspiration for musician-friendly rock dives throughout the world, died in Manhattan on Tuesday. He was 75.
His son, Mark Dana Kristal, told The Associated Press that the cause was complications from lung cancer.
From its opening in late 1973, when Mr. Kristal, a lover of acoustic music, gave the club its name, an abbreviation of the kinds of music he originally intended to feature there — country, bluegrass and blues — until a dispute with its landlord forced the club to close last October, CBGB presented thousands of bands within its eternally crumbling, flyer-encrusted walls.
Most famously, it served as the incubator for the diverse underground scene of New York in the 1970s and early ’80s, with acts like the Ramones, Patti Smith, Blondie, Television, Talking Heads and Sonic Youth playing some of their earliest and most important concerts there, at a time when there were few outlets in the city for innovative rock music.
I blogged about CBGB's impending demise here, here and here. When Kristal was asked about the gentrification of The Bowery, the historic neighbourhood where CBGB lived, he surprised many people with his attitude: "You want old stuff? Go to Europe."
In that sense (and many others), Kristal truly understood New York. Everything is always changing, and nothing lasts forever.