Steven Ford Brown is a journalist, music critic, publisher and translator in Boston, Massachusetts. Brown grew up in Birmingham, Alabama, and attended the University of Alabama at Birmingham. After moving to Boston he worked for several local universities. For almost a decade he worked in the European Equities Department of a private investment firm in Boston's Financial District. He resigned his position in January 2006 to travel and live in Europe and pursue a career as a music critic and journalist.
Brown was born in Florence, Alabama, to Ford Brown (sales executive) and Gloria Peters (housewife). The family eventually moved to Birmingham and he grew up in a suburb of the city. During high school he became interested in the poetry and music of Leonard Cohen as well as the poetry of Richard Brautigan, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac and other members of the Beat Generation. During this time he was also influenced by the 1960s music of the San Francisco scene and the British Invasion bands. After high school he attended the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
During his college years Brown moved to Birmingham’s Southside, a community just below Red Mountain and ten minutes from the downtown area of Birmingham where the most violent confrontations of the Civil Rights era took place. Not unlike New York City's Greenwich Village and San Francisco's Haight Ashbury during the 1960s, Southside, in stark contrast to the Civil Rights battleground in downtown Birmingham, was home to a tolerant alternative artistic, cultural and lifestyle scene. The Southside community featured an alternative newspaper (The Paperman), a Buddhist styled natural foods store, a coffeehouse, several communes, a headshop, a free medical clinic, the Charlemagne Record Exchange, The Garages art studios and the Red Mountain Alternative School.
Brown began his literary affiliations by joining a loose congregation of artists, writers and musicians who gathered and lived at the Cobb Lane Studios, a collection of apartments and studios above the Cobb Lane Restaurant on 20th Street. He began a writing career in earnest with The Paperman as an occasional journalist, books and literary editor and music reviewer. During this period he began a correspondence with John Martin, publisher of Black Sparrow Press, and discovered Black Sparrow authors Charles Bukowski, Tom Clark, Jack Spicer and Diane Wakoski. He would eventually correspond for a number of years with Wakoski. He created and edited for the paper an original series of features and profiles of American artists and writers that included Diane Arbus, John Beecher, Charles Bukowski, Allen Ginsberg, Richard Hugo, Diane Wakoski and poets against the Vietnam War. As a rock music critic and journalist he was among the first to champion Buckingham Nicks, the debut album by Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks before they joined Fleetwood Mac). During this period he reviewed such recording artists as the Allman Brothers, Blondie, Bob Dylan, The Eagles, Marvin Gaye, Joni Mitchell, Van Morrison, Gram Parsons, Jimmie Spheeris, Michael Stanley, Alex Taylor, Steve Winwood and Warren Zevon.
He left The Paperman to become editor of Aura Literary Arts Review at the University of Alabama in Birmingham, publishing work by Yukio Mishima (Japan), Dave Smith, Diane Wakoski, and features on Robert Bly, Howard Nemerov, the American prose poem and Southern poetry. The same year he also founded a small literary press, Thunder City Press, which eventually became Ford-Brown & Co., Publishers, and continued to publish books until 1995. Over a twenty year period his two publishing houses published anthologies, broadsides, chapbooks, books and magazines that included literary work by John Beecher, Richard Brautigan, Pier Giorgio DiCicco (Canadian Poet Laureate), Bei Dao (China), Mark Doty, Odysseus Elytis (Greece), Charles Gaines, Andrew Glaze, Gail Godwin, Enrique Anderson Imbert (Argentina), Carolyn Kizer, John Logan, Vassar Miller, Pablo Neruda (Chile), Sonia Sanchez, Gerald Stern, Georg Trakl (Austria), Tomas Tranströmer (Sweden), Yevgeny Yevtushenko (Russia) and Paul Zimmer.
With local writer Danny Gamble he founded the Old Town Music and Reading series on Morris Avenue near downtown Birmingham. The founding of this performance series was the culmination of a number of years of sponsorship of conferences, readings and music performances by Birmingham artists. Brown and Gamble teamed up with Drew Tombrello, owner of The Old Town Music Hall, to present performances to packed crowds three times a year. Performers included many local musician and writers but also such notable musicians and writers as Mose Allison, Johnny Coley, Michael Harper, Lolly Lee, Philip Levine, Larry Levis, The Ray Reach Group, Carroll Dale Short, Shirley Williams, Larry Jon Wilson.
His translations and other publications have been supported by grants from the Spanish Cultural Ministry (Madrid, Spain), the National Endowment for the Arts, the Linn-Henley Charitable Trust, the Cultural Office of the Swedish Embassy in New York City and the Texas Commission for the Arts. The Birmingham Festival of Arts awarded him the Silver Bowl for his contributions to the literary arts of Birmingham, Alabama.
He currently lives in Boston, while frequently traveling in Europe, particularly Amsterdam, Barcelona, London and Stockholm. He was recently in residence at the Swedish Writers Union in Stockholm. He has been a featured writer at Boxing Herald.com and written feature articles on boxers Chris Byrd, Bernard Hopkins and Wladimir Klitschko, the Ukrainian heavyweight champion. He has also been a staff writer for Boston Music Spotlight and published interviews and articles on the history of the Boston rock music scene, particularly focused on the Boston-Cambridge folk-rock music era of the 1960s in Harvard Square through the Boston punk rock era of the 1970s. In 2011 he will be a featured speaker in a conference at the Université Paul Valéry in Montpellier III, France, on the life and work of John Beecher and Harriet Beecher Stowe.