Read 1,000 Editions of The Village Voice: A Digital Archive of the Iconic New York City Paper

After The Village Voice announced this week that it was folding its print operation, a couple people compared the venerable NYC rag’s demise to the end of Gawker, the snarky online tabloid taken down by Hulk Hogan and his shadowy financier Peter Thiel. For too many reasons to list, this comparison seems to my mind hardly apt. There’s a gesture toward the Voice’s profane unruliness, but the alternative weekly, founded in 1955, transcended the blog age’s sophomoric nihilism. The hermetic container of its newsprint sealed out frothing comment sections; no links ferried readers through rivers of personalized algorithms.

The Voice published hard journalism that many, including Voice writers themselves, have ruefully revisited of late. Its music and culture writers like Nat Hentoff, Lester Bangs, Sasha Frere-Jones, Robert Christgau and so many others are some of the smartest in the business. Its columnists, editors, and reviewers—Andrew Sarris, J. Hoberman, Robert Sietsema, Tom Robbins, Greg Tate, Michael Musto, Thulani Davis, Ta-Nehisi Coates—equally so.

In its over sixty-year run, Voice writers sat in the front rows for the birth for hard bop, free jazz, punk, no wave, and hip-hop, and all manner of downtown experimentalism in-between and after.

Amongst the many remembrances from current and former Voice staff in a recent Esquire oral history, one from editor and writer Camille Dodero stands out: “The alt-weekly’s purpose was, in theory, speaking truth to power and the ability to be irreverent, and print the word ‘fuck’ while doing so.’” Mission accomplished many times over, as you can see yourself in Google’s Village Voice archive, featuring 1,000 scanned issues going all the back to 1955, when Norman Mailer founded the paper with Ed Fancher, Dan Wolf, and John Wilcock. There are “blind spots” in Google’s archive of the Voicenoted John Cook at the erstwhile Gawker. In 2009, his “searches didn’t turn up any coverage of Norman Mailer’s 1969 campaign or the Stonewall riots… and there’s not much on Rudy Giuliani’s mayoral bid.” Many years later, months and years in the Google archive remain blank, “no editions available.”

The Voice has had its own blind spots. Writer Walter Troy Spencer referred to Stonewall, for example, as “The Great Faggot Rebellion” and used a phrase that has perhaps become the most wearisome in American English: “there was mostly ugliness on both sides.” This anti-gay prejudice was a regular feature of the paper’s first few years, but by 1982, just as the AIDS crisis began to filter into public consciousness, the Voice was the second organization in the US to offer extended benefits to domestic partners. It became a prominent voice for New York’s LGBTQ culture and politics, through all the buyouts, cutbacks, and unbeatable competition that brought it to its current pass.

The paper also became a voice for the most interesting things happening in the city at any given time, such as the goings on at a Bowery dive called CBGB in 1975. Character studies have long been a Voice staple. Lester Bangs’ write-up of Iggy Pop two years later cut to the heart of the matter: “It’s as if someone writhing in torment has made that writhing into a kind of poetry.” Back in ’75, Andrew Sarris wrote a rather jaw-dropping profile of Hervé  Villechaize (in which he begins a sentence, “The problem of midgets….”).  …. the more I look through Voice back issues, the more I think it might have been a Gawker of its time, but as onetime columnist Harry Siegel tells Esquire, “what made it unique depends a lot on the age of who you’re asking. It was a very different paper in different decades. It was valuable enough for a long time that people paid money to read it.”

Indeed its first issue cost 5 cents, though by the nondescript cover, above, you wouldn’t guess it would amuse or titillate in the ways the Village Voice became well-known for—in its columns, photos, cartoons, and libertine advertising and classifieds. But most people these days remember it as “free every Wednesday,” to proffer dance, film, theater, music, restaurants, to line subway cars and birdcages, and to open up the city to its readers. The Voice is dead, long live the Voice.

Enter the digital archive of the Voice here.

Writings from the Voice have been collected in these anthologies: The Village Voice Anthology (1956-1980) and The Village Voice Reader.

Related Content:

A Complete Digitization of Eros Magazine: The Controversial 1960s Magazine on the Sexual Revolution

Download 36 Dadaist Magazines from the The Digital Dada Archive (Plus Other Avant-Garde Books, Leaflets & Ephemera)

Enter a Huge Archive of Amazing Stories, the World’s First Science Fiction Magazine, Launched in 1926

Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

by | Permalink | Comments (16) |

Support Open Culture

We’re hoping to rely on our loyal readers rather than erratic ads. To support Open Culture’s mission, please consider making a donation. We accept Paypal, Venmo, Patreon, even Crypto! To donate, click here. We thank you!

Comments (16)
You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.
  • Clyde Smith says:

    As a North Carolinian I loved The Village Voice for many reasons and had a print subscription for years in the 80s.

    They affected politics probably more than once but a key memory is their feature on the Greensboro Massacre in 1979.

    They helped raise the national profile of a truly heinous attack on anti-Klan activists when far too many were buying into the bogus notion of a shoot out and letting the cops off the hook though they were clearly involved.

    Thanks VV!

  • Betty Cooper says:

    Fashion Institute of Technology around 1975, Eddie Moore of Harlem had a fashion show there and the Village Voice covered it. I was one of the models and i am trying to find that issue. Thank you something to share with my grandkids

  • Ivy Boteler says:

    I am interested in the original JAF cartoons published in the Voice during the 60’s.

  • Ralf Schernikau says:

    I am searching for scans of the monthly “Pazz&Jop Product Report” column published 1979 and 1980 in Village Voice. Who can help?

  • Van Ge says:

    I am looking for the Voice article June 22 1982 about Jerzi Kosinski called :

    “Jerzi Kosinski’s Tainted Words”

    by Geoffrey Stokes and Eliot Fremont-Smith


    If not to the paper edition article itself, I would highly appreciate a link to the original text of the article.

    Anyone ?


  • Adolphe Latorre says:

    I’m looking for and article on P.P.O.W gallery in the east village in 1985 point of view show

  • David Hernandez says:

    Looking for the article by Philip Nobile, “Alex Haley’s Hoax: How the Celebrated Author Faked the Pulitzer Prize-winning `Roots,'” Village Voice, February 1993

  • Elena Marinou says:

    I am interested in the article of Peter Schjeldahl, “Systems ’66”, Village Voice, September, 1966. It is a text of great importance to me for my phd research. I would appreciate if someone has it and is willing to share.

  • John Schneider says:

    Looking for Carman Moore’s review of Harry Partch concert entitled “Blo-bou to Chromelodeon: The Audience Catches Up”, VV, Sept. 12, 1968 pp.40, 42, 62. It’s for an upcoming CD release. Help!

    John Schneider
    PARTCH Ensemble
    Venice Beach, CA

  • Julie Brown says:

    Hi why can’t I see the classified pages in 1981?

  • Joel Mandelbaum says:

    Am searching archives for issues in December 1971. How can I retrieve them.

  • Peter says:

    I am seeking any Village Voice from MAY 1998 – I’m seeking a show listing for the music venue Tramps

  • Andy says:

    An entire year of the Village Voice, 1968, is missing. Can somebody load it in, please?

  • Astrid says:

    I’m looking for two Hentoff articles from 1983 (september 6 and september 20) anyone?

  • Jeff Rowe says:

    Looking for the Frances Fitzgerald article on the Vietnam war that appeared in 1966

  • Daria says:

    I would appreciate if someone would upload the full year 1966 as it’s pertinent to my research. Thank you.

Leave a Reply

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.