John Szwed was Professor of Music and Jazz Studies at Columbia University, Editor-in-Chief of the web site JazzStudiesOnline.org, and Director of the Center for Jazz Studies at Columbia University.
He has received fellowships from the John M. Guggenheim Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation, and was awarded a Grammy in 2005 for Doctor Jazz, a book included with Jelly Roll Morton: The Complete Library of Congress Recordings by Alan Lomax on Rounder Records. He has authored or edited 18 books, and as a journalist has written for The New York Times, The Washington Post, Wire, and many other publications in the US and Europe. From 1979 to 1999 he wrote for the Village Voice.
Szwed has produced several recordings and has appeared in a number of documentaries and television specials. From 1980 to 1982 he was the music commentator on Terry Gross' Fresh Air on NPR, and from 1993 to 2003 he was president of Brilliant Corners, a non-profit music production company located in New York City. He is currently General Editor of the Jazz Perspectives Book Series for The University of Michigan Press.
He was born in Eutaw, Alabama, and raised in Birmingham and in Burlington, New Jersey. In high school Szwed studied trombone with Donald S. Rinehardt and music theory with Mervin Hutton, and played bass and trombone professionally for ten years. He studied at Marietta College and Ohio State University, where he received a Ph.D in anthropology.
His research in social anthropology and folk music took him to Newfoundland, the Georgia Sea Islands, and Trinidad. He has taught at Temple University, Lehigh University, New York University, the University of Pennsylvania (where he was co-director of the Center for Urban Ethnography with Erving Goffman and Dell Hymes, and was Chair of the Department of Folklore and Folklife). At Yale University he was John M. Musser Professor of Anthropology, African American Studies, and Film Studies for 26 years. He was also Louis Armstrong Professor of Jazz Studies at Columbia University in 2003-04 and 2005-2007.
Szwed is married to Marilyn Anderson Szwed and lives in Philadelphia. Their son is Matthew Szwed.