Good Morning
Good Morning
Long IslandObituaries

Joe Kohn dies, big band drummer, ex-publisher in Long Beach was 93

Joe Kohn, big band drummer and ex-publisher of

Joe Kohn, big band drummer and ex-publisher of Long Beach weekly, died Sept. 7, 2015 at 93. Credit: Courtesy of Kohn family

From the post-World War II Catskill Mountains scene to modern-day Long Beach, Joe Kohn's big band endured it all.

Under the stage name Joe Kane, he played with jazz legends including Roy Eldridge and Marian McPartland, played at events held for President-elect Richard Nixon and former Gov. Nelson Rockefeller and was a staple of the annual summer swing concert put on by his home city of Long Beach.

Kohn, who was behind the drums for 52 years of those city shows, missed the engagement for the first time last month because of failing health.

He died Sept. 7 in Long Beach at 93 of complications following cancer.

"The things he was interested in, he was extremely passionate about," said his son Michael Kohn, 52, of Long Beach, who took his father's place on the drums last month. "He'd always want to turn people on to whatever he loved, and bring a new generation in."

Joe Kohn was nearly as well-known in Long Beach for civic involvement as he was for his music. In 1976, he purchased the weekly newspaper Independent Voice and served as its publisher through its purchase by a local chain in 1989.

A political progressive, Kohn got behind both Republicans and Democrats in Long Beach, and helmed the paper during a transformational time in the city -- when it was decaying and began to be rebuilt in the early 1980s with the approval of large retail development.

"That turned the whole city around," Michael Kohn said. "And the paper did a lot to push it in the right direction."

Bruce Nyman, a former Long Beach city manager and Nassau County legislator, recalled that Kohn was advocating for a single-payer national health care system years before it became a true liberal cause.

"He was ahead of his time," Nyman said. "And he never wavered -- he was the same 1960s liberal in the 2000s."

Whether it was through music or journalism, Kohn was "all about community," said Harvey Weisenberg, a former state assemblyman who represented Long Beach for 26 years.

"He actively participated," Weisenberg said. "You could tell how much he loved our city."

Born in Brooklyn, Kohn began visiting Long Beach with his family as a child. After beginning his Big Band career in the late 1940s with an extended residency at a Catskills country club -- where he met his wife, Terry -- Kohn returned to Long Beach. His wife died in 1999.

From the late 1950s into the 1970s, he led bands at clubs spanning the barrier islands, including a six-year stint at the Atlantic Beach Hotel, where he played at events held for numerous political heavyweights.

While Kohn kept playing in big bands throughout his time at the Independent Voice, he picked up the pace again in the 1990s, after the paper was sold. Until his health began to decline, he played regular swing concerts put on by nearly every town and city in Nassau.

"He'd become a professor of big bands when he gave his concerts," Michael Kohn said. "He'd give you a mini-history lesson on who the artists are."

Joe Kohn also is survived by son Richard of Weston, Connecticut, and five grandchildren. There was no funeral; as directed by Kohn's wishes, his body was donated to medical science.

The family, Michael Kohn said, will hold a memorial service at a later date "that will be as untraditional as he was."

Latest Long Island News