Michael Goodwin, a.k.a. Michael Oliver-Goodwin, an important chronicler of Louisiana culture in prose and film, passed away November 28 at age 77.
Born in 1941 in New York City, he spent his youth haunting Broadway theaters and jazz clubs. He was also a folkie who heard early performances in Greenwich Village by Bob Dylan, Dave Van Ronk, the Kweskin Jug Band and Maria Muldaur. He later programmed members of the Folk Revival at Cornell, where he attended college.
In the mid-’60s he motorcycled out west to be a part of the burgeoning San Francisco scene. He was Rolling Stone‘s first film critic, and eventually wrote for American Film, Take One, the New York Times Magazine, and other important journals including OffBeat Magazine. During his Bay Area years he also worked for Francis Ford Coppola, and ended up co-writing an unauthorized biography with his first wife, Naomi Wise.
Goodwin eventually hooked up with director Les Blank, and this led to screenwriting and other duties on important films like the Oscar-nominated “Burden of Dreams” (which entailed traveling to the Amazon to document the making of Werner Herzog’s “Fitzcarraldo”) and “Always for Pleasure,” one of the seminal looks at New Orleans culture circa 1980. These visits for “Pleasure” turned him into a Nolaphile, and he wrote the first national pieces about Jazz Fest and the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, as well as obituaries for Professor Longhair and James Booker for the Village Voice.
Michael spent the last 25 years divided between Oakland and New Orleans. In later years he co-produced Trinidadian CDs (he was a huge fan of that culture, marrying the love of his life, Trinidadian-American Jennifer Oliver-Goodwin, who survives him along with their son Richard and three grandsons. Michael self-published a savvy book of his New Orleans adventures, “Heaven Before I Die,” and spent his life in America’s three great bohemian cities: New York, San Francisco, and New Orleans; a great example of “savoir-vivre.” He knew how to live, in spades.