James Taylor turns 72 today. To honor that occasion, we revisit his secret Jewish History.
James Taylor, whose most recent album topped the Billboard charts, has had a number of Jewish musical pals who have contributed to his music — starting with Carole King.
I was hoping to post Part 2 of the Passover concert before the first Seder and then log off for yomtov, but cleaning the oven took longer than I expected (don’t ask). So here it is. We’ve got some Psalms, some spirituals, some memories of Jerusalem and some visions of the Messianic Era.
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.
Durham, N.C. is not an easy place to be a non-conformist. It is the home of Duke University, notorious for its male lacrosse team’s behaving badly and its “Cameron Crazies,” obsessed basketball fans. Even in January 2011, when the Durham public schools need to make up a snow day, school is scheduled for Saturday, Jewish students notwithstanding.
The most surprising and pleasurable thing about watching Carole King perform with her dear friend James Taylor on their reunion tour Thursday night was how fresh it all seemed. Her music was not simply the soundtrack to my life in high school and college, when “Tapestry” burst onto the music scene and suddenly this Jewish woman from New York with curly hair and exceptional talent gave voice to all our generation’s emotions.