Jim Nayder, a longtime fixture on Chicago public radio who was best known as the host and producer of National Public Radio's "Annoying Music Show," was found dead in his Chicago apartment Friday. He was 59.
An autopsy was scheduled, but his family said Nayder had a long history of alcoholism and had checked into rehabilitation centers many times.
The "Annoying Music Show" — a kind of wry celebration of kitsch, from William Shatner's cover of "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds" to "Muskrat Love" — ran less than five minutes and began as weekend filler on Chicago's WBEZ-FM in 1995. By 1997, the show was on public radio stations around the country and has spawned CD compilations and live performances (which included Nayder's Annoying Music Dancers).
"Annoying music is a train wreck," Nayder once told the Chicago Tribune. "You don't want to see it but you can't look away."
A former program director at WBEZ, Nayder also hosted and produced "Magnificent Obsession," a harrowing, 30-minute weekly show about drug and alcohol addiction, narrated by a subject battling addiction.
"Magnificent Obsession" started in 1992 and also remains a WBEZ staple, although Nayder had not produced a new episode since 2012. "It was an incredibly simple and powerful format," said Torey Malatia, WBEZ chief executive. "And when I told him I liked it, he would always have that look like, 'Thank God someone appreciates this,' because he knew ultimately, people would know him for annoying music."
Born in 1954, Nayder grew up on the South Side of Chicago and started at WBEZ in the late 1970s. Nayder established the first schedule-disrupting WBEZ fundraiser, "which people can probably blame on Jim," said his wife, Laurie. "Though the truth is, Jim didn't love being a station executive. He was more of a creative guy."
Before radio, Nayder studied for the priesthood through a Loyola University seminary program but left to marry Laurie, who is Jewish. Scott Simon, host of NPR's "Weekend Edition Saturday," as well as an old friend and former WBEZ colleague of Nayder, said Nayder's parents were apoplectic over their son's plans. "Jim used to say that when he left the seminary, his father, a union president with ties to the Chicago Board of Education [which originally ran WBEZ], asked the board to 'find my son the most disagreeable job they had.' So WBEZ hired him. That was very much his sense of humor."
Simon added: "Jim's shows came out of separate sides in his personality. One ("The Annoying Music Show") came out of that part of his personality that was utterly hilarious — this very wild Chicago-style sense of humor. At the same time, Jim knew powerfully how life could be taken over by the things we don't understand and can't overcome in ourselves, no matter how hard we fight — and boy, he tried for years."
Besides his wife, Nayder is survived by his daughter, Blair Botti, and a grandson.