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St. Petersburg Times CEO Andrew Barnes to Chair Pulitzer Prize Board
Eugene Raskin

Eugene Raskin, Columbia adjunct professor of architecture for four decades, was a Renaissance man. How many faculty members could lay claim to having written not only scholarly books and plays, but a worldwide folk-pop hit song as well? The multi-talented Raskin died in Manhattan on June 7. He was 94.

Born in 1909, Raskin studied at Columbia, where he obtained his bachelor's degree in 1930 and a master's in architecture in 1932, then went on to teach at his Alma Mater from 1936 to 1976. During that time he published three books on architecture: Architecturally Speaking (1955), Sequel to Cities (1971) and Architecture and People (1974).

Raskin was also an accomplished playwright. Among his works were the 1949 comedy "One's a Crowd," in which a nuclear physicist develops four personalities after an experiment goes dangerously awry, and 1951's romantic fantasy "Amata," which was produced at New York City's Circle in the Square Theater.

Raskin was also part of the 1960s folk movement and performed with his wife, Francesca. In 1962, he wrote the lyrics and music for "Those Were the Days," basing the melody on a traditional Russian folk song. It was later recorded by Mary Hopkin on the Beatles label Apple Records, and in 1968 her version of the song climbed to the top of the British charts, dislodging the Beatles' own "Hey Jude" from the No. 1 spot. The single reached No. 2 on the American charts and went on to sell more than 8 million copies worldwide.

Raskin didn't see anything unusual in his pursuit of many different art forms, both high and low, well before the postmodern era. In 1956, he told the Columbia Alumni News: "Those who disapprove of me call me a dilettante, and those approve call me a man of many interests. But my work has proved -- to me at least -- that all the arts are one. All of them are built from feelings purified through form."

Published: July 01, 2004
Last modified: Jan 10, 2005

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