The New York Times reported that writer Irwin Silber, former editor of the influential folk music magazine Sing Out!, died on Sept. 8 in Oakland from complications of Alzheimer’s disease. He was 84.

QUEST featured Silber and his wife, singer Barbara Dane, in a television segment about Alzheimer’s disease that aired in 2008. The story looks at a gene associated with the disease.

Silber was famous for taking Bob Dylan to task in an open letter in Sing Out!, after the 1965 concert at the Newport Folk Festival in Rhode Island in which Dylan shifted his sound from acoustic to electric.

Writer Irwin Silber appeared in a QUEST TV segment on Alzheimer's.  We filmed him having lunch at a Brazilian restaurant in Berkeley in Nov. 2007.
Writer Irwin Silber appeared in a QUEST TV segment on Alzheimer’s. We filmed him having lunch at a Brazilian restaurant in Berkeley in Nov. 2007. (Jenny Oh)

Silber and Dane let us film them as they each attended support groups for patients and caregivers at Alzheimer’s Services of the East Bay, in Berkeley. Silber also led us on a lively tour of his library at their Oakland house, where he kept copies of the books he had written. His interests ranged from folk music to socialist politics to health – after knee and hip replacement surgery, he wrote a guide for people undergoing the procedure. At the end of the day, they sat down for an interview during which they discussed candidly the challenges of dealing with Silber’s Alzheimer’s.

“He always was the smartest guy in the room, always. Everyone knew it,” said Dane. “Many times I’ve been in a meeting with some brilliant people debating different issues, and they all kind of wait for the end for him to come up with a summation that would take it a step higher. He was a specialist at that. And then bit by bit you could see that the ability to do that was ebbing away.”

Silber kept an upbeat outlook. “I’ve lived my life,” he said. “The more I can enjoy it, the better. But I’ll be satisfied when I’m done no matter what because I feel that I did something and I feel good about it.”

We at QUEST are very grateful to Silber and Dane for the openness with which they talked about Alzheimer’s and its impact on families.

Writer Irwin Silber Dies; Was Featured in QUEST TV Story 10 March,2016Gabriela Quirós


Gabriela Quirós

Gabriela Quirós is a video producer for KQED Science and the coordinating producer for Deep Look. She started her journalism career 25 years ago as a newspaper reporter in Costa Rica, where she grew up. She won two national reporting awards there for series on C-sections and organic agriculture, and developed a life-long interest in health reporting. She moved to the Bay Area in 1996 to study documentary filmmaking at the University of California-Berkeley, where she received master’s degrees in journalism and Latin American studies. She joined KQED as a TV producer when its science series QUEST started in 2006 and has covered everything from Alzheimer’s to bee die-offs to dark energy. She has won five regional Emmys and has shared awards from the Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival, the Society of Professional Journalists and the Society of Environmental Journalists. Independent from her work in KQED's science unit, she produced and directed the hour-long documentary Beautiful Sin, about the surprising story of how Costa Rica became the only country in the world to outlaw in vitro fertilization. The film aired nationally on public television stations in 2015.

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