One of Chicago’s most prominent African-American radio hosts has died.
Herb Kent “The Cool Gent” passed away Saturday evening. He was 88.
For nearly 70 years, Mr. Kent entertained millions of listeners not just in the Chicagoland area, but the world. His passion for radio was truly unmatched, with Mr. Kent hosting his final radio broadcast Saturday morning.
Born on Oct. 5, 1928 in Chicago, Illinois, Herb received early musical inspiration from the R&B clubs housed in his South Side neighborhood, according to a biography published on The HistoryMakers. He often would stand outside the club’s windows to listen to the music being played inside.
Herb got involved in drama workshops and studied classical music at Hyde Park High School. By age 16, he had already appeared on-air at Chicago’s prestigious WBEZ Radio station.
That was the beginning of a long, solid career in radio. In 1952, Mr. Kent landed a position at WGES Radio in Chicago, where he hosted a one-hour country and western show. This was where Mr. Kent developed his distinctive on-air style and with it, a large fan base.
Over the next few decades, Herb, affectionately known as “Herbie Baby,” “Herb Kent The Cool Gent” and “The Voice of the People,” hosted a variety of radio shows throughout Chicago. His style of humor, musical critique and social banter is what made him great on-air.
Mr. Kent was also a civil rights activist, who used his prominent broadcast platform to amplify the needs of African-Americans.
In a statement sent to WLS, Civil Rights Leader Jesse Jackson said Kent was among “the proud posse of African-American disc jockeys and producers – men and women – who turned WVON radio into “The Voice of the Nation” during the freedom struggle of the 1960s.”
He is credited for launching the careers of R&B legends Minnie Ripperton, Smokey Robinson and The Temptations.
In 1995, Mr. Kent was inducted into the Museum of Broadcast Communications Radio Hall of Fame. In 1996, a street, “Herb Kent Drive,” was dedicated in his honor on Chicago’s South Side.
Herb Kent was a radio legend who will forever be missed. Our condolences go out to his family at this time.