President Barack Obama is sending a message by Congressman Bobby Rush to the final services for the renowned DJ Herbert Rogers Kent, as throngs of admirers and listeners are expected to be in attendance. This service, befitting a man who was a Disc Jockey icon for more than seven (7) decades, is expected to be filled with stories and experiences as the city of Chicago mourns the loss of the consummate music authority.
What is even more ironic is that Herb was to accompany Farley and the Hot Mix 5 DJ Team on Saturday, October 29th at 9 a.m. to the White House. It had been one of Herb’s greatest desires, according to his long-time girlfriend and companion Linda. It seems that previous attempts for the visit had been changed each time. While the group will be in attendance in his honor on Saturday, they said that “the trip is now of greater significance for DJs.
The services include a six-hour (2 p.m. – 8 p.m.) viewing on Friday, October 28th at the Robey Park Manor Funeral Home in Chicago Heights and a wake and homegoing service on Saturday, October 29th, 9.a.m. and 10 a.m., respectively.
Herb Kent, the “Cool Gent” as he was popularly known died on Saturday, October 22 at the age of 88. He had hosted his last broadcast on V103 on Saturday morning and had become ill as he prepared to attend an event that evening. It was noted by Joe Vince of the Patch, a community news network, as he quoted Mat Scarano regional president for iHeart Media Chicago, the parent company of V103, “Herb was an iconic talent, who for nearly 70 years entertained millions of listeners in Chicagoland and around the world. His passion for radio and work ethic was second-to-none as Herb worked to the very end, by hosting what unexpectedly was his final V103 broadcast on Saturday morning.”
Through his lively exchange with guests and co-workers during his broadcasts, the everyday person felt like they knew Herb Kent, whether they had met him personally or not. He was a walking encyclopedia and was credited with furthering the careers of many of the famous rock and roll artists of the 60s, 70s and 80s. He was also popularly associated with the well-known dance called “Steppin.” Steppin’ parties are regularly held around Chicago and its suburbs and he hosted a “Steppin’ show on television from time-to-time.
Some of the noted artists he helped launch into successful careers included Smokey Robinson, The Temptations and Curtis Mayfield, Minnie Riperton and the host of “Soul Train” Don Cornelius. And there were many more over the decades.
Born in Chicago on October 5, 1928, Herb grew up in Ida B. Wells project and went to Hyde Park High School. He had a street named in his honor in Bronzeville and a portion of Stony Island Avenue. He said he was humbled by the honors.
It was in 2015 when the Chicago Crusader celebrated its 75th anniversary that the newspaper presented Kent with the “Crusading Pioneer Award.” Dorothy R. Leavell, Editor and Publisher of the Crusader that often when she and Herb would meet he reminded her that his mother at one time worked as a secretary for the Crusader. She said she remembered when WVON Radio Station was launched in the 1960s “that one of the most exciting djs was Kent. His distinguishable and melodic voice was his calling card. And even in recent years he still corrected people who did not speak with correct diction, a trademark of his.” She said that his brand of excellence will be missed.
The legendary broadcaster began his career in the 1940s at WBEZ in Chicago and WGRY in Gary. He has worked at numerous stations, including eight years at WVON. Since 1988 he has been a popular and commanding voice on WVAZ-FM. In 2009, Guinness Book of World Records named him the longest running DJ in radio history, at that time he had been on the airways for 65 years. He also was inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame in 1995 and the Rhythm and Blues Hall of Fame this year.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel said in part of his statement upon learning of Herb’s death, “Herb Kent will forever be remembered for his incredible talent, infectious passion for music, and unique ability to entertain and uplift.”