Just got word that Amiri Baraka has passed on. I don’t know how comfortable I am with “Rest in Peace” — he certainly said and espoused a peck of heinous ideas over the years. He was always the farthest thing from “at peace”. Now that he’s dead, he probably still doesn’t want any anyway.
The part of his work I know best (really, at all) is from when he was still LeRoi Jones, when he wrote the seminal off-off-Broadway plays Dutchman (1964) and The Baptism and the Toilet (1967), and above all, his terrific book Blues People: Negro Music in White America (1963). I’ve written about 80 blues artists on this blog, and written a play about the blues. A lot of the inspiration to do those things came from Blues People.
Rather than wade into the muddy waters of his controversial political beliefs (and his immoderate way of expressing them), I think I will recommend that you buy and read this one excellent book. I go back to it periodically for both information and inspiration: http://www.amazon.com/Blues-People-Negro-Music-America/dp/068818474X
More on his passing can be found here: http://www.nj.com/essex/index.ssf/2014/01/hold_hold_hold_amiri_baraka_former_nj_poet_laureate_and_prolific_author_dead_at_79.html