Chusid, Irwin 1951-

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CHUSID, Irwin 1951-


Born April 22, 1951, in Newark, NJ; son of Morris and Jean Chusid. Education: "Autodidact." Politics: "Pro-abortion and pro-capital punishment." Religion: Jewish. Hobbies and other interests: Baseball, good coffee, Raymond Chandler, H. L. Mencken, culinary arts, music, weird culture, cats, Zora Neale Hurston, female vocalists, outsider art and music, radio—"the list goes on."


Home—P.O. Box 6258, Hoboken, NJ 07030. E-mail—[email protected].


Radio personality and author. WFMU Radio, Jersey City, NJ, disc jockey, 1975—; Raymond Scott Archives, Hoboken, NJ, director, 1991—. Producer for musicians and groups, including Raymond Scott, Esquivel, the Shaggs, the Langley Schools Music Project, Songs in the Key of Z, R. Stevie Moore, The Ernie Kovacs Record Collection, and Wendy and Bonnie.


Society of American Baseball Research.


Songs in the Key of Z: The Curious Universe of Outsider Music, A Cappella Books (Chicago, IL), 2000.

Contributor to periodicals, including New York Times, New York Press, Pulse, Film Comment, Outsider, Mix, Electronic Musician, Mojo, and Baseball Research Journal


The Mischievous Art of Jim Flora, for Fantagraphic Books (Seattle, WA).


Irwin Chusid, a self-described autodidact and independent-minded music historian, has hosted a free-form music/talk radio show on New Jersey's WFMU radio station since 1975. "It's a safe bet that a good chunk of the station's tiny, loyal audience his been with him since the beginning," noted New Jersey Monthly contributor Cara Birnbaum, "listening to a quirky, comforting mix of monologue and music you wouldn't find anywhere else but in an attic, a flea market, or Chusid's apartment." Well respected as "the world's foremost authority on outsider music," according to Barbara White in Notes, Chusid has published a book about his special field of expertise titled Songs in the Key of Z: The Curious Universe of Outsider Music.

Songs in the Key of Z focuses on the talent and careers of musicians that Chusid considers to be so-called "outsiders." Essentially, these outsider musicians are less self-aware and self-conscious about their art, thus "we find the wonderful eccentrics who populate Songs in the Key of Z to be a savory antidote to the manufactured boy bands, teen squeezes, and assembly-line thugs clogging the charts these days," explained Chris Morris in a review of the book for Billboard. Mildly criticized for its "somewhat problematic" definition of outsider music and its need for "fuller critique of the enduring image of the aberrant loner," in the opinion of White, Chusid's book is, the critic nevertheless concluded, "a significant achievement" that has been "diligently researched and engagingly written." Mike Tribby, writing in Booklist, called Songs in the Key of Z "essential reading about the fringes of popular music."

Chusid told CA: "My job title is 'Landmark Preservationist.' I find things on the scrap heap of musical history that I know don't belong there, and salvage 'em.

"Basically I'm a small, sensitive boy in a big indifferent universe. Yet, as a chronicler of musical and cultural arcana, I am living proof that seemingly frivolous pursuits can be parlayed into gainful employment.

"My life's goal is to watch the original director's cut of Erich von Stroheim's 1923 film Greed. Or to hear an original recording by the Cherry Sisters. However, I will settle for a visit to Arizona's Shady Dell Trailer Park."



Billboard, May 27, 2000, Chris Morris, review of Songs in the Key of Z: The Curious Universe of Outsider Music, p. 123.

Booklist, May 1, 2000, Mike Tribby, review of Songs in the Key of Z, p. p. 1637.

New Jersey Monthly, May, 2002, Cara Birnbaum, "The Incorrect Music Man," p. 56.

Notes, September, 2002, Barbara White, review of Songs in the Key of Z, pp. 66-67.

Publishers Weekly, April 24, 2000, review of Songs in the Key of Z, p. 74.


Irwin Chusid Home Page, (April 26, 2004).

Songs in the Key of Z, (April 26, 2004).