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Robert Allan Roth

Died: July 18, 1978

Bob Roth was the most sensitive, talented, sweet-hearted, kindest, unselfish person I ever knew. We were fast friends from the first moment I stumbled into his dorm room on the Old Campus, roommates and pals in later years. His wonderfully quirky sense of humor was insightful, never mean-spirited. He punctuated his observations with a short, sharp bark of a laugh. His voice and skill were magnificent. His guitar seemed attached to his arm.

He took joy in simple pleasures. I have few memories of him angry or upset, many of him laughing, smiling, singing, playing, excited to be part of our Yale life. Tall and gangly, his eyes too close together, his nose too large even for his big long face, he was yet an attractive man, to whom women were drawn by the force of his personality and the deep kindness that shone from his eyes. Bob was an English major, but his true love was music. It was first the folk era, Bob Dylan, Peter, Paul and Mary, and shortly thereafter, The Beatles. Bob was part of it and sang the songs of those last conventional days and first crazy ones in our country.

In the Augmented Seven singing group, which he loved, Bob formed with John Carney a bond that would last the rest of his regrettably short life.

How shocked he was on Tap Day; he ran back to our room, excited, proud, pleased, and shocked. Tapped for St. Elmo, he was overjoyed; it was one of the great moments in his life. I was so pleased that others saw in him the deep intelligence and fierce humanity that I knew.

After graduation we drifted apart but stayed in touch. Bob went to the Columbia School of Journalism in Missouri. He visited me in New York, having driven all night. We went to see Carney performing around Manhattan.

Bob studied journalism, but music drove him. He had to try making music professionally, and he did, waiting table to keep body and soul together. Had fate not intervened, he would have succeeded. He played with the John and Carrie Carney and his good friend Jay Stevens (’67) in the village in ’68, with Bo Leibowitz and Stevens in a rock band in ’69, as a duo with Stevens in NYC in ’70, and around Boston through most of ’76 and ’77. Jay writes, “He was a powerful presence on stage,” he who was so self-effacing off of it.

Bob visited me in South America and LA, where he toured with beautiful girls in a dance troupe.

He was selfless. Carney says Bob was working as a waiter in Martell’s at 83rd St. and Third Avenue when Paul McCartney walked in. Carney had performed for McCartney a few years before, and Bob immediately called John to say, “Get your butt over here; McCartney’s here; I’ve been talking you up; and he remembers you!” He must have done a good job because when John walked in, “Paul treated me like a long lost friend.”

Bob died in 1978, his dreams unrealized. Some of our dreams died with him. Jay, John and I were fortunate to have been among his few close friends.


— JG Wolf with help from John Carney ’66 and Jay Stevens ’67.