Music Journalist Ben Fong-Torres Visits the Show

Storied writer regales Howard with tales of interviewing famous rockers

May 9, 2006

Ben Fong-Torres, formerly of Rolling Stone magazine, came into the studio to observe the show for a while. Howard recalled he used to read Ben’s work in the 1970s and Ben replied he actually wrote a piece about Howard when he first came to New York 25 years ago. Ben added that he was “so lucky” at the beginning of his career because he wrote for Rolling Stone five days a week, and also did a free-form radio show on Sundays as well. Ben explained he has interviewed people like Steve Martin, Cheech and Chong and Stevie Wonder for Rolling Stone and they’d have such a good time together the stars would stop by his radio show to continue their discussions.

Howard asked Ben why he decided to stop working for Rolling Stone and he said it was because the magazine moved its headquarters from San Francisco to New York. Ben went on to say his brother, who was a social worker, got killed by a gang while trying to do his job, so he needed to remain with his family at the time. Ben added he remained a correspondent for the magazine while he was in San Francisco and did some writing for it when he moved to New York, but eventually decided to pursue other opportunities. Ben then mentioned he now works as an author, with several books, as well as a freelance writer for various newspapers and magazines.

Ben told Howard his favorite interviews he did were with Ray Charles and Marvin Gaye. Ben remembered Ray was upset at the time because he was being ignored by the music world, even though Ben considered Ray to be “the history of American music.” Ben also recalled Marvin had just released “What’s Going On” when they talked, but he was still insecure about his talent despite the album’s acclaim.

When Howard mentioned Ben admitted in one of his books to having had sex with a celebrity before he got married more than 30 years ago, he said it was true, but refused to give the woman’s name.