Robert Goffin

Robert Goffin (21 May 1898 – 27 June 1984) was a Belgian lawyer, author, and poet, credited with writing the first "serious" book on jazz, Aux Frontières du Jazz in 1932.[1][2]

Robert Goffin
Robert Goffin with Benny Carter, Louis Armstrong and Leonard Feather in 1942
Born(1898-05-21)21 May 1898
Died27 June 1984(1984-06-27) (aged 86)
Genval, Belgium


Robert Goffin was born in Ohain, Belgium in 1898. His mother was unmarried, and his pharmacist grandfather supported them. In 1916, Goffin completed his humanities study at the Athenaeum of Saint-Gilles where Paul Delvaux was his classmate.[3] Two years later, he published his first collection of poetry, Rosaire des soirs (Evening Rosary), while he was studying law at the Free University of Brussels (now split into the Université Libre de Bruxelles and the Vrije Universiteit Brussel).

By 1923, he was a lawyer at the Court of Appeal of Brussels, and in 1928, he married Suzanne Lagrange. During this period, his focus shifted to the new American art form, jazz, and in 1932 he published what is considered the first serious book on the new genre, Aux Frontières du Jazz.[1]

He was active in the Belgian resistance against the nazis, whose invasion of his country he predicted twelve months in advance,[4] creating in 1939 the magazine Alert, in which he advocated the abandonment of the Belgian neutrality for an alliance with France. He had harsh polemics with Belgian fascist Léon Degrelle. He left Belgium for the United States at the outset during World War II, supporting himself through lectures and writing, including essays such as Jazz: from the Congo to the Metropolitan,[5] and novels set in German-occupied Belgium, including La colombe de la Gestapo ("the dove of the Gestapo") and The White Brigade (published in French as Passeports pour l'Audelà).

In 1942, he collaborated with Leonard Feather to teach what is considered the first course ever on jazz history and analysis, held at the New School for Social Research in New York City.[6]

After the war, he returned to Belgium to again take up his legal activities at the Court of Appeal of Brussels. In 1952, he joined the Royal Academy of French Language and Literature, becoming director in 1971, and director of the Belgian Pen Club in 1956. His wife Suzanne died in 1965 and in the late 1970s, Goffin began a life of semi-retirement on the shores of Lake Genval, dying in 1984.[3]

Selected works

  • "The Best Negro Jazz Orchestra", 1934, printed in Negro, Nancy Cunard, ed.
  • Was Leopold a traitor?: The story of Belgium's eighteen tragic days, 1941.
  • The White Brigade, 1944.
  • Patrie de la poésie, 1945.
  • Histoire du jazz, 1945.
  • La Nouvelle-orleans, Capitale Du Jazz, 1945.
  • Jazz from the Congo to the Metropolitan, 1943.
  • Horn of Plenty: The Story of Louis Armstrong, originally published as Louis Armstrong, le roi du jazz ("the king of jazz"), 1947.
  • À propos de Guy Huygens Illustrated monography of 24 pages, with texts by Paul Caso, Robert Goffin, Maurice Lambilliote, Marcel Lecomte, Jan Walravens and Joseph Weterings
  • Le roi du Colorado ("The king of Colorado"), 1958.


From the Best Negro Jazz Orchestra:

"I consider Duke Ellington as the most extraordinary phenomenon in the whole development of jazz. He took wing in a first period of enthusiasm, in common with other executants, for the undiluted spirits of "hot"; these early performers played in a kind of inspired trance, they were accumulators of musical energy and transmitted the flow of syncopation without comment."[7]


  1. Epperson.
  2. Gale.
  3. Libens.
  4. Ray Sonin Preface to: Robert Goffin Jazz Musicians Press, 1946
  5. Jazz Musicians Press, 1946
  6. Brown, p. 200.
  7. Goffin (1934).


  • Brown, John Robert (2006) Mel Bay's Concise History of Jazz , Mel Bay Publications, ISBN 978-0-7866-4983-9 .
  • Epperson, Bruce. ""European Jazz Discography and the Creation of a New Art Music, 1932–1976", Exhibit Notes". Retrieved 20 August 2010.
  • Gale Contemporary Authors Online Farmington Hills, Mich.: Thomson Gale. 2007.
  • Goffin, Robert (1934). "The Best Negro Jazz Orchestra". Retrieved 20 August 2010. Translated by Samuel Beckett.
  • Libens, Christian "Robert Goffin: poète, essayiste, amateur de Jazz", Province de Luxembourg, Département des Affaires Culturelles, Service du Livre Luxembourgeois.
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