NEW YORK (Hollywood Reporter) - With the complicated melodies of the music he loved so much surrounding them, family and friends of Ed Bradley said goodbye to the “60 Minutes” correspondent Tuesday with a three-hour service filled with life, love and laughs.
Nearly 2,000 people filled the stately Riverside Church on the edge of the Hudson River to pay tribute to Bradley, who died November 9 at age 65. They came from the wide spectrum of Bradley’s life: from his youth as a Philadelphia sixth-grade math teacher to his early days at CBS Radio and covering the Vietnam War to his friends in jazz and other music and the many people he came in contact with as a globe-trotting correspondent.
“He came on the scene in one of the most exciting times in American history, and he embraced what Oliver Wendell Holmes called ‘the action and passion of his times,”‘ said Charlayne Hunter-Gault, who traveled from her home in Africa to be with Bradley in his final days.
“He was, after all, the jazz master,” said former President Clinton, one of the many interview subjects whom Bradley disarmed with his manner. “He always played in the key of reason, and his songs were full of the notes of facts, but he knew to make the most of the music you have to improvise.”
Music permeated the service, particularly the jazz Bradley adored and the New Orleans style he had come to love. A brass band rendered a processional dirge to open the service, returning to close it in traditional style with “When the Saints Go Marching In.” Lizz Wright performed India.Arie’s “Complicated Melody,” which was handpicked by Bradley’s wife, Patricia Blanchet. Wynton Marsalis performed, as did New Orleans jazz legend Irma Thomas, who sang three songs. Bradley’s friend Jimmy Buffett and Allen Toussaint performed “Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans?” and another Bradley friend, Aaron Neville, sang “Amazing Grace.”
Among those attending were Bradley’s CBS News colleagues Mike Wallace, Andy Rooney, Lesley Stahl, Steve Kroft and retired anchors Walter Cronkite and Dan Rather; such other network journalists as NBC’s Brian Williams, Meredith Vieira and Steve Capus, and ABC’s Diane Sawyer; along with Bill Cosby, Paul Simon, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, Leslie Moonves, Richard Parsons and Howard Stern.
“He never forgot where he came from, and he always gave back generously, with his time, his money and his advice,” longtime Philadelphia friend Marie Brown said.
Former CBS head Howard Stringer, who worked with Bradley in the 1960s at WCBS-AM, called him a “pied piper for children ... a man of the people, absolutely.”
Kroft remembered that Bradley never was driven by what Kroft called “the ‘60 Minutes’ stopwatch.” He said that for a time Bradley was heir apparent to Rather, but he didn’t want the anchorship.
“He didn’t want to be tethered to a news desk ... CBS News was his job, not his life,” Kroft said.
Twelve days before his death, Bradley checked himself out of Mount Sinai Hospital to record the narration for what would be his last “60 Minutes” report. He was so weak that his wife had to hold him up.
“I listened to it and heard a man who did his work with passion and courage until the day he died,” producer David Gelber said.
“Finding another Ed Bradley is as close to an impossible task as anything in broadcasting,” said Don Hewitt, who hired Bradley at “60 Minutes” in the early 1980s.
“If you want to follow in Ed Bradley’s footsteps, you can’t sit behind a desk looking good,” Hunter-Gault said. “You’ve got to put on your traveling shoes. You’ve got to walk the walk, not just talk the talk.”