Remembering KCRW Music’s Eric J. Lawrence: His life and work

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Before Eric J. Lawrence came to KCRW, he was a DJ and general manager at UCLA Radio, and later earned a graduate degree in literature with a focus on music. Photo by Marc Goldstein.

Former KCRW DJ, librarian, and music critic Eric J. Lawrence passed away yesterday. 

There are people who love music, or are into a genre or a band, or maybe played around as a DJ at their college radio station.

But then there was Eric J. Lawrence, fondly known as EJL, or just EJ.

Eric was a DJ and GM at UCLA Radio, an internet station that attracted a set of students who could outdo each other with the most obscure band knowledge. Eric turned his love of music into not only a Masters Degree in English Literature at Cal State Northridge, but also into a PhD at the university of KCRW. He started as a volunteer in the ‘90s, becoming an indispensable part of the music library. Then he became our professor. That turned into a job and a weekly show, Dragnet, where his music taste ran the gamut from popular to esoteric to the “criminally overlooked.” EJL knew it all — genres, artists, music movements, albums, labels.

He started a weekly snack club at KCRW where his love of random, bagged snack items opened the eyes of KCRW staffers eager to search out ethnic grocery stores and mini-marts in the name of discovery. He was a guest on Good Food discussing the finer points of fast food. He was also a regular guest on Press Play, where he schooled LA on the music they needed to hear or the significance of 1991 or Bob Dylan’s best album

EJL was a keeper of things. The basement music library was so full of CDs, albums, board games, and ephemera that he once came to me with the idea not to cull the collection but to open the ceiling and make a second floor.  

KCRW’s music library was a place not only where the records lived that EJL loved so much, but a place that drew kindred spirits who respected and admired EJL’s knowledge and his passions. 

He left us too soon. He will always be a part of KCRW. — Jennifer Ferro, KCRW President

Listen to tributes to Lawrence on Press Play and Morning Becomes Eclectic. Celebrate his life and work with a selection of his dynamic work spanning essays, criticism, interviews, and DJ sets, and explore his complete KCRW archives here

Interview: The Fall's Mark E. Smith 

In 2006, Lawrence welcomed Mark E. Smith, leader and founder of legendary UK post-punk band The Fall, onto his late-night show Dragnet for a rare and intimate interview. He later honored Smith with a tribute show when the artist passed away in 2018

David Bowie tribute show 

After hearing the news that David Bowie passed away at the age of 69, Lawrence dedicated his full three-hour show to the music legend.

Holiday Guest DJ set: John Legend

While hosting MBE on Christmas Eve 2019, Lawrence — KCRW’s resident Christmas music enthusiast — was joined by EGOT artist John Legend to share some of his favorite Christmas songs for a special holiday guest DJ set for KCRW.

Guest DJ Project: Bill Nye the Science Guy

Bill Nye the Science Guy also happens to be a big fan of music, from Frank Sinatra to Fred Astaire. The TV host and longtime educator tells Lawrence how music impacts us – scientifically speaking – and shares his song choices with a great sense of humor. 

Guest DJ Project: LeVar Burton 

Beloved “Reading Rainbow” host and “Star Trek” star Levar Burton selects meaningful songs about redemption, spirituality, and acceptance, as well as the “quintessential love song” as part of his Guest DJ set with Lawrence. 

MBE Guest Host

Lawrence fills in for Jason Bentley in 2015. 

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