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A Sad Passing

The night before last, we were out late, and happened to tune in the BBC, which was replaying a classic Alistair Cooke piece from some years ago, where he conveyed a great respect for Groucho Marx, and simultaneously praised and insulted Bing Crosby, all done with the calmest voice imaginable. It was amazingly good radio. While listening, we thought about what a remarkable career the man had, submitting "Letters from America" from 1946 until just a couple of weeks ago, when he finally retired at the age of 95.

That's a spectacular career by anyone's reckoning, and when we woke up in the morning to hear the news of his death, we were quite sad.

Cooke was many things, but among them, he was a first-rate diplomat, although he was never appointed to any official capacity, and he was also one of the best friends this nation has ever had. Over more than half a century, he told the BBC, and through that network the world, about Groucho Marx, Bing Crosby, American summers and tragedies, Presidents and common men, faults, foibles, and failings, but all told with a great love and affection for his adopted country.

We were lucky to have him. His job will almost certainly depart with him, and really it should. It's impossible to imagine anyone else could do it, and quite honestly, we're not even sure we would want anyone else to try.

If you have never heard him, or haven't heard him in a long time, we hope you get a chance to soon. Whatever he had to say was invariably fascinating and worthwhile.