Robert Hilburn (born September 25, 1939) is an American pop music critic and author. As critic and music editor at the Los Angeles Times from 1970 to 2005, his reviews, essays and profiles have appeared in publications around the world. Hilburn's memoir, Corn Flakes with John Lennon (And Other Tales from a Rock ‘n’ Roll Life) was published on Oct. 13, 2009 by Rodale. He is a member of the nominating committee of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and lives in Los Angeles.
Born in Natchitoches, Louisiana, and lived until he was 5 mostly on his grandfather’s cotton plantation in nearby Campti. During those years and when visiting his grandparents in later summers, he was exposed to the blues and country music styles that eventually gave birth to rock ‘n’ roll. After a few years in Dallas, Texas, he moved with his family to Southern California, where he graduated from Reseda High School in 1957 and California State University, Northridge (journalism degree) in 1961. He worked as a news reporter on a suburban Los Angeles newspaper (the Valley Times TODAY) for two years, but tired of journalism and became a public information officer for the Los Angeles Unified School District in the mid-1960s. While there he began missing writing around the same time he fell in love with the work of Bob Dylan and the Beatles. Eager to write about music, Hilburn did a series of freelance pieces on such figures as Johnny Cash and Janis Joplin for the Los Angeles Times before being hired full-time by the paper.
The Los Angeles Times
Hilburn began working at the Los Angeles Times in 1969,, replacing Pete Johnson as rock critic in 1970. While at the Times, Hilburn accompanied several artists on tour, including Johnny Cash for his landmark Folsom Prison concert, Elton John's inaugural visit to Russia, Paul Simon's “Graceland” tour stop in Zimbabwe, and Bob Dylan's first concert swing through Israel. He spent a week on the road with the Sex Pistols during their first U.S. tour. At the Times, Hilburn wrote about the new pop culture movements of punk, techno and rap.
Later work and personal life
In 1985, Hilburn published a Bruce Springsteen biography as one in a series of Rolling Stone Press books. He released “Corn Flakes with John Lennon” focusing on the work and influence of John Lennon, Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, Bruce Springsteen, Stevie Wonder, Phil Spector, Michael Jackson, U2, Kurt Cobain and N.W.A.
In 2013, Hilburn published a biography of Johnny Cash titled Johnny Cash: The Life.
Hilburn hosts a weekly Sunday-evening music program, Rock 'n' Roll Times, on Cal State Northridge station KCSN.
Hilburn left the Los Angeles Times in 2005. He is married and lives in Los Angeles.
- Kinchen, David (November 3, 2013). "BOOK REVIEW: 'Johnny Cash': Meticulous Attention to Facts Sets Robert Hilburn's Biography Apart". Huntington News. Retrieved 12 December 2013.
- Hilburn, Robert (2009). Corn flakes with John Lennon and other tales from a rock n' roll life. New York, New York: Rodale. ISBN 9781605291659.
- "A History of Rock Criticism" (PDF). Retrieved 2014-02-21.
- Hilburn, Robert (2013). Johnny Cash: The Life (Deckle Edge). New York, New York: Little Brown and Company. ISBN 978-0-316-19475-4.