British-born journalist Steven Wells, 49, who built a formidable reputation as an acerbic critic and irascible commentator, died last week after a long battle with cancer.
Known for his highly intelligent, in-your-face style, Mr. Wells was a staff writer at Philadelphia Weekly (PW) and a contributor to dozens of other media outlets in the United States and England.
His work included concise and often biting analyses of punk, hard-core, and heavy metal music; dissertations on sports; and rants on everything from the problem with people who knit to the incompetent arrogance of political leaders.
His wife, Katharine Jones, a sociologist and college professor in Philadelphia, described her husband as a "cultural critic" posing as a music and sports journalist.
"He had something to say about anything and everything," she said.
A soccer enthusiast, he once wrote a piece defending referees, suggesting they should be equipped with Tasers to keep pampered and whining players in line.
Mr. Wells also wrote two lengthy pieces for PW about his battle with cancer.
In 2006, after he was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma, he wrote a story titled "The English Patient."
And when, after a brief period of remission, the disease returned this January in a more virulent form, he wrote "Cell Out."
While the articles offered insights into the disease and his battle, they also provided commentary on hospital care, emergency rooms, patients, and medical staffs.
On one level, those who knew him said, Mr. Wells viewed cancer like everything else he encountered. It was a story that had to be told, and told as only he could tell it.
His description of a visit to a New York cancer specialist captured the knowing sarcasm that marked his work.
"This particular cancer doctor has festooned his walls with framed magazine covers that roar AMERICA'S TOP 100 DOCTORS. In England such a display would be considered frightfully immodest. In Philly it'd be considered a tad gauche. But in look-at-me-everybody New York it kinda looks cool. Dignity is a moveable feast."
Brian McManus, the music editor at PW and a longtime friend, said Mr. Wells was an "absolutely fearless" writer brimming with ideas and constantly looking for outlets - online, in print, and on video.
"He was so prolific. He was writing on his deathbed."
Mr. Wells died Wednesday, a day after moving into hospice care, McManus said. He had been in and out of the hospital since January.
In addition to his wife, he is survived by his parents, two sisters, and two brothers, all living in England.
A celebration of his life has been scheduled for 4 p.m. Wednesday at Smokin' Betty's Restaurant, 11th and Sansom Streets, said McManus, who is editing a five-page tribute to appear in PW that day.
McManus said that Mr. Wells had inspired a generation of writers and that his reporting for New Musical Express (NME) in England in the 1980s and 1990s set the bar for music criticism.
He said Mr. Wells' comments could often make or break a new band, pointing to an NME article in which Mr. Wells simply wrote the word NO in capital letters and repeated it 387 times.
Raised in Bradford, a city in northern England, Mr. Wells went to work at NME after a brief career as a "punk poet" in London in the 1970s.
As a performer, he used the names Seething Wells and Swells, and his poetry was built around rants against injustice and racism, said his wife.
The couple met in 2003 after she contacted him while researching a paper on soccer hooliganism. He, in turn, asked for her help for an article he wanted to do on the soccer-mom phenomenon in America.
He came to Philadelphia to do research. They met and fell in love. In less than a year he had relocated and they were married.
"He was incredibly smart, incredibly articulate," she said.
Then she laughed, recalling that "the first time we met we had this huge argument. I'm a vegetarian, and he hates vegetarians."
His work was described as "part Johnny Rotten, part Hunter S. Thompson" in a memorial commentary published last week at guardian.co.uk, a Web site where he was a contributor.
"He was a seething cauldron of ideas that could not be contained," said McManus, the PW music editor. "We were absolutely lucky to have him in Philadelphia."
The city's sports scene also caught his eye, and he used his column at guardian.co.uk to keep his British readers abreast.
After attending a 76ers game that he felt was constantly interrupted by sideshows, he wrote:
"I was starting to get a feel for the rhythm of live basketball, noting how a little chap called Allen Iverson repeatedly used his brain as much as his body to outfox players who loomed over him. I was thinking what a great soccer midfielder he'd make. A Maradona with hands. Then, suddenly, I wasn't thinking anything at all. I was watching dancing girls.
"This set the pattern for the rest of the evening. A few minutes of basketball sandwiched between go-go dancers, a Frisbee-catching dog, time-outs, free T-shirts, irritatingly short blasts of music, distracting scoreboard graphics and Hip Hop the Rabbit's amazing guys-in-fat-suits sumo wrestling competition."
PW published Mr. Wells' final column online Thursday, the day after he died. It was written June 14, McManus said.
In the article, Mr. Wells wrote about life from the perspective of someone who was dying, describing himself as "an idiot who has polished his image as an existentialist, atheist hard-man and anti-mope, forever sneering at the tribes who wallow in self-pity."