An unlikely mastermind is behind several beloved Hanukkah songs: folk music icon Woody Guthrie.
It’s Bob Dylan’s 73rd birthday. Here’s what four Israeli singer-songwriters had to say about the ‘defining moment’ in his influence on them.
Here’s a little video collection I put together for May Day 2010, with some updates, to help get in the holiday spirit. Fortunately, it’s still relevant. Unfortunately, that’s because we haven’t made much progress in the interim toward economic justice.
Many accused Bob Dylan of selling out with his Super Bowl Chrysler ad. Jay Michaelson explains why it’s just the bard’s ironic spin on what it means to be American.
Troubadour and folk poet Woody Guthrie was a working class hero with deep Jewish connections. His life and music is now being celebrated in a musical traveling the country.
Sebastiano Conca: ‘Alexander the Great in the Temple of Jerusalem’ (1737) / Wikimedia Commons
I agonized over this. We’re now in the nine-day mourning period approaching Tisha B’Av. Music is not appropriate. Can we observe by listening to music of the season? Well, I decided to go with it. It’s for those who haven’t thought of observing the mourning period, to get you in the mood. There are versions of Psalm 137 (“By the Rivers of Babylon, there we sat down and wept”) in Hebrew and English, from reggae, Israeli, medieval Italian baroque and American pop. Also several songs of yearning for Jerusalem, by Naomi Shemer, Meir Ariel and Paul Simon. Plus some numbers on homelessness and wandering, courtesy of Bruce Springsteen, Woody Guthrie and James Taylor. Also the English (Joan Baez) and original Yiddish (Chava Alberstein) versions of “Donna, Donna” about calves who let themselves be led like, well, lambs to the slaughter.
“The Klezmatics are the Jewish equivalent of arena rock,” ethnomusicologist Bob Cohen deadpans early in Erik Greenberg Anjou’s documentary “The Klezmatics: On Holy Ground.” “They’re not heavy metal; they’re heavy Yiddish.”
The English-speaking Haredi Jewish community produces an awful lot of original Jewish music, though critics might consider it a lot of awful original Jewish music. With rare exceptions, the lyrics of popular songs in English — as opposed to settings of liturgical texts or Yiddish lyrics — come in just a few flavors, ranging from preachy to maudlin to just plain bad. Good lyrics are few and far between, the repertoire consisting of less-than-subtle presentations of the importance of Torah, Shabbos, and especially Moshiach and Geula (the Messiah and Redemption).