The newspaper myth was that famous deaths came in threes. It proved true over the weekend with the passing of Chuck Berry, Jimmy Breslin and Robert B. Silvers. All of them strongly influenced my life.
Berry's songs were part of the language; all of us knew his lyrics like people used to know passages from the Bible or Shakespeare. His riffs were basic lessons for Eric Clapton, Keith Richards and other guitar gods of the next generation.
In truth, I didn't care much for Breslin at first, put off by his New York braggadocio and rudeness. I didn't start reading him until the early days of the Internet. Although the Web killed the newspaper business, it did allow national readership of writers like Breslin and the Washington Post's Mary McGrory. Reading Breslin's late Newsday columns everyday online, I joined his fan club, moving on to read several of his books.
Silvers, the exacting editor of the New York Review of Books, influenced me the most. The New York Review is one of the journal's I've read throughout my adult life.
Along with co-founder Barbara Epstein, who died in 2006, Silvers, 87, edited the NYR since its founding in 1963, the result of the strike that led to New York City falling from nine to three daily newspapers.
Many of my favorite writers I first encountered in the NYR. Silvers also gave space to writers mistakenly dismissed from other journals, such as Russell Baker, who's New York Times column has never been equaled, and Elizabeth Drew, the incisive political writer bounced from the New Yorker by Tina Brown.
Berry, Breslin and Silvers represented three arenas of American culture, each displaying his own creative excellence.