William Bender, a critic and editor for Timemagazine who covered the gamut of America’s musical scene in the late 1960s and ’70s, from Leonard Bernstein to David Bowie, died on May 4 in Olathe, Kan. He was 83.
His daughter Sarah Bender Reilly said the cause was congestive heart failure.
Mr. Bender, who worked at Time from 1967 to 1978, considered himself primarily a classical music critic, as when he profiled George Solti, the conductor of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, for a cover article in 1973.
That attitude could inform his reports on popular music. One 1971 cover article, about “Jesus Christ Superstar,” the hit musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice, began by quoting the show’s director, Tom O’Horgan, as well as George Bernard Shaw, Jesus himself and Webster’s definition of “vulgarity.”
But he appreciated many of the pop and rock acts he covered, including Mr. Bowie, Elton John, the Band and George Harrison. In another 1971 cover article, about James Taylor, he wrote, “Taylor’s use of elemental imagery — darkness and sunlight, references to roads traveled and untraveled, to fears spoken and left unsaid — reaches a level both of intimacy and controlled emotion rarely achieved in pure pop music.”
William Isett Bender Jr. was born on May 30, 1930, in Manhattan, the only child of William and Louise Carhart Bender. His father was a choirmaster and organist at St. James’ Church on the Upper East Side. William Jr. grew up in Westchester County and graduated from Mamaroneck High School in 1948.
He studied philosophy and music at New York University, graduating in 1952, then served in the Army during the Korean War. After the war he received a master’s degree from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism. He became a reporter for The Associated Press in 1956 and a culture reporter for The New York Herald Tribune in 1962.
After leaving Time, Mr. Bender spent 15 years teaching journalism at the S. I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University, Long Island University and other schools. More recently he reviewed classical recordings for American Record Guide.
Mr. Bender lived in Kansas City, Mo. His wife, the former Sally Jameson, died in 1994. In addition to his daughter Sarah he is survived by another daughter, Margaret Bender; and two grandchildren.