Chicago’s Master Storyteller Moves On

“Take it easy, but take it.” Studs Terkel, 1912-2008

Chicago’s master storyteller, Studs Terkel, passed away yesterday at the age of 96. If you don’t know his work, I hope you’ll take the time to browse the Chicago Tribune’s  coverage on the life of Studs Terkel. By studying Studs, you can learn a lot about so many things: Chicago, life, storytelling, grace, humor, performing, listening, wisdom, jazz, music, media, radio, romance, politics and humility to name a few. To get a feel for the man in person, here’s a video from University of California’s YouTube channel. Harry Kreisler talks with Studs Terkel, prize-winning author and radio broadcast personality, on an edition of Conversations with History series.

 

I’d also like to share two personal Studs Terkel stories with you.

The first time I saw Studs Terkel speak, in the early 80s, I was on a date with my boyfriend.

Before Studs came on, my boyfriend took one of Studs' books out of his briefcase and said maybe Studs could sign it.

After the lecture, we approached the stage together. We talked with Studs for a few minutes and he gladly signed the book.

Studs wrote: Take it easy, but take it.

Those six words stuck with me.

On October 3 2001, I got the chance to see Studs again at an event at the Chicago History Museum.

Studs was obviously older than when I first saw him speak, but his presence was as sharp, spunky and sparkly as I remembered. He talked about his latest book, Will the Circle Be Unbroken? A Reflection on Death, Rebirth and Hunger for a Faith. You can listen to NPR’s Bob Edwards interview Studs about death and dying, really more of an interview about how to live life.

At the end of his lecture, he made his way out to the lobby for a book signing. This time I didn’t have a book and the line was so long it would take at least 45 minutes to talk to him. But, my friends waited. I wanted to tell Studs my story.

When I finally got to the front of the line, I told him we’d first met about 20 years ago - after hearing his lecture on a date with my boyfriend. “We got married and now we have three children. I want to thank for telling us to take it easy, but take it.” Studs smiled and said, “Well I’ll be damned.” He shook my hand and I went home to tell my husband.

Take it easy, but take it.

Six words from a brilliant man of many.

Studs Terkel's latest book, P.S. Further Thoughts from a Lifetime of Listening, comes out on November 3.

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