For 40 years, Kansas City tax attorney Bill Shapiro was best known in the community as the host of “Cyprus Avenue,” a weekly radio program at station KCUR that was devoted to Shapiro’s love of music. KCUR announced that Shapiro died Jan. 21 at age 82.
In memory of Shapiro, Missouri Lawyers Media is reposting this interview with him that was published in late 2012.
Listening to “Cypress Avenue” on Kansas City public radio is like having an erudite record store owner walk you through his favorite stash of music. Except that host Bill Shapiro doesn’t work at a record store. He has possibly the least rock ’n’ roll job imaginable — tax lawyer.
Yet every Saturday since October 1978, Shapiro has been narrating what he calls “the soundtrack to our lives” as a volunteer radio host for station KCUR.
“I can’t believe I’ve done it for that long,” he said. “But when it’s a labor of love, it doesn’t seem to be a big problem.”
Part disc jockey, part musicologist, Shapiro’s only script is a playlist and a concept in his head. The show — named for a Van Morrison song — might showcase an artist one week, a genre, a composer, or certain kind of song the next. Elvis Presley to Elvis Costello. Patsy Cline to Patti Smith. Megastars like The Beatles. Regional favorites like Uncle Tupelo.
Shapiro is a Kansas City native, the son of a self-made immigrant from Russia who wanted him to follow in his footsteps and become a doctor. But Shapiro resented his father’s all-consuming practice and instead chose tax law, doing “creative things to minimize taxes.”
Now at Dysart Taylor Cotter McMonigle & Montemore, Shapiro has worked at five other firms in his 50-year legal career, always seeking a practice that shared his vision of the law as a profession devoted to clients, not a business focused on profits.
Those impulses — creativity, rebellion and an honest, intimate connection with the people who listen to you — also drive the music he loves.
“The heart of rock ’n’ roll is right here,” he says, flashing a middle finger. “It’s that energy that drives the best of it. Probably always will be. Probably why I like it.”