Edwin Goodgold ’65: Father of Trivia, Manager of Sha Na Na


You can’t tell the story of pop culture in the 1960s and ’70s without spot- lighting the contributions of Edwin Goodgold ’65, who raised the profile of trivia contests from a college parlor game to a global phenomenon, and helped turn the a capella group the Kingsmen into the retro rock sensation known as Sha Na Na.

Born in Israel, Goodgold grew up in Brooklyn and graduated from Tilden H.S. before majoring in history and becoming features editor of Spectator. He spent more than two decades in the music business doing promotional work and managing rock groups, then pivoted to a 25-year career as a respected NYU administrator. He died on May 7, 2021, in New York City.

While at Columbia, Goodgold often gathered with friends in one of the dorm lounges, where they would discuss various subjects, including memories of their childhood influences in music, books and people. These led to Q&A trivia sessions, whose popularity spurred Goodgold to write a column for Spectator published on February 5, 1965, headlined “Glorious Entertainment.” “Trivia is a game played by countless young adults,” he wrote, “who on the one hand realize they have misspent their youth and yet, on the other hand, do not want to let go of it.” Those ties are the essence of true trivia, and what separates it from minutiae and random factoids. “Trivia is concerned with tugging at the heartstrings,” Goodgold and Dan Carlinsky ’65 wrote in their seminal 1966 book, Trivia, which introduced the subject to a national audience.

On March 1, 1965, Goodgold and Carlinsky hosted a trivia contest on the third floor of Ferris Booth Hall, which included several Kingsmen singing old rock tunes and the audience guessing their original singers. Thus from trivia was planted the seeds of Sha Na Na.

Goodgold and Carlinsky hosted late-night call-in trivia shows on WKCR where callers would often play “stump the hosts.” They also organized a pair of trivia contests open to teams from the Ivy League and the Seven Sisters in October 1965 and February 1967.

Goodgold spent some time at NYU Law before choosing to work on writing projects, including collaborating with Carlinsky on several more trivia books between 1966 and 1970. Meanwhile, he was approached by several members of Sha Na Na, who knew him from Columbia, to help them find a manager to handle the business aspect of their budding career. They soon decided they were more comfortable with Goodgold than anyone else, and he took the job.

“Ed was a great guy who got along with everybody,” said Richard Joffe ’72, LAW ’93, an original member of the group. “He was so engaging and so diplomatic, everybody liked to do business with him. As a new group, that really helped to smooth our way into the music business.”

Goodgold managed Sha Na Na through their iconic appearance at Woodstock and developed friendships with many veteran promoters including Bill Graham, who brought the group to his landmark venues Fillmore West and Fillmore East. Goodgold stopped managing Sha Na Na in 1974, by which time many of the original Columbia members had left the group, but he continued in the music business. Among his most famous jobs was as the American manager for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame group Genesis, whose members included Phil Collins and Peter Gabriel.

After more than two decades of frequent travel and high pressure, Goodgold decided he would prefer to stay closer to home. In February 1992, he took a temporary administrative position in the NYU Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development because he thought returning to an academic environment might be fun. The gig was supposed to last six months, but Goodgold stayed for nearly 25 years; he retired in December 2016. He was assistant to the associate dean, academic affairs, and loved being around young people and his co- workers in the dean’s office. The feeling was mutual; before he left, his co-workers gave him a retirement bash with, naturally, a trivia theme.

Goodgold is survived by his wife, Helene; and brother, Abraham ’69.

— Alex Sachare ’71