Thursday, April 23, 2015

Jefferson Airplane and The Jews

The Appointed Time Is Come: In fulfillment of his "promise" (Billy Nader) made last week (see No Komo Muestro Salvador) Abq Jew will now speak more about כי בא מועד Ki Ba Moed (The Appointed Time Is Come).

You recall, of course, that, in speaking of the hymn Ein Kelohenu, Abq Jew noted that our Sephardic brethren and sestren have a more exciting ending than we Ashkenazim - Psalms 102:14.

It will come as no surprise that "The Singing Rabbi," Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach z"l, had a wonderful tune for this verse, which you can listen to here.

Of course, Reb Shlomo had a wonderful tune for every verse. Wikipedia tells us:
Carlebach began writing songs at the end of the 1950s, primarily based on verses from the Tanakh or the Siddur set to his own music. Although he composed thousands of songs, he could not read musical notes. 
Many of his soulful renderings of Torah verses became standards in the wider Jewish community, including Am Yisrael Chai ("[The] Nation [of] Israel Lives"—composed on behalf of the plight of Soviet Jewry in the mid-1960s), Pitchu Li ("Open [for] Me [the Gates of Righteousness]") and Borchi Nafshi ("[May] My Soul Bless [God]"). 
The New York Times reported in its obituary of Carlebach that his singing career began in Greenwich Village, where he met Bob Dylan, Pete Seeger and other folk singers who encouraged his career, and helped him get a spot at the Berkeley Folk Festival in 1966. 
But Carlebach was actually recording well before this and was invited to the festival by one of its organizers after she heard a recording of Carlebach.
It was, in fact, at the 1966 Berkeley Folk Festival that Abq Jew first met Reb Shlomo. And that's where Jefferson Airplane comes into the story.

The 1966 Berkeley Folk Festival's catalog of performers was an eclectic bunch, but many of them either were Jewish or had Jewish connections. Some (like Reb Shlomo) were Jewish and had Jewish connections.

But let's start with Jefferson Airplane.

Abq Jew here speaks with reverence of the original Jefferson Airplane. When Signe Toly Anderson was the lead singer.

Before they released their first album, Jefferson Airplane Takes Off (click here to listen.) When they performed roots-based rock for an audience that recognized their roots.

Before Grace Slick. Before Surrealistic Pillow, White Rabbit, and all the psychedelic rock stuff.

And as for the Jewish stuff, we have -

Marty Balin (third from left), founder and lead vocalist:
Marty Balin (born Martyn Jerel Buchwald; January 30, 1942) is an American musician. He is best known as the founder and one of the lead singers of the psychedelic rock band Jefferson Airplane and its spin-off Jefferson Starship. 
Balin was born ... in Cincinnati, Ohio, the son of Catherine Eugenia "Jean" (née Talbot) and Joseph Buchwald. His paternal grandparents immigrated from Eastern Europe. His father was Jewish and his mother was Episcopalian. Marty attended Washington High School in San Francisco, California.
Jorma Kaukonen (on the right), lead guitarist:
Jorma Ludwik Kaukonen, Jr. (born December 23, 1940) is an American blues, folk, and rock guitarist, best known for his work with Jefferson Airplane and Hot Tuna. 
Born in Washington, D.C., the son of Beatrice Love (née Levine) and Jorma Ludwig Kaukonen, Jorma Kaukonen had Finnish paternal grandparents and Russian Jewish ancestry on his mother's side.
There has been a slew of articles about Jorma in the Jewish press recently. For more about his Jewish background, click here and here and here.

Now, one might have thought that that was about it vis-a-vis the Jewish thing. Except if one thought that Grace Slick's maiden name (is this term even used any more?) must have been Glick (it was Wing).

Reb Shlomo, on the other hand, married Elaine Neila Glick, a teacher, in 1972. They had two daughters, Nedara (Dari) and Neshama. Neshama Carlebach is a songwriter and singer in her own right, basing herself on her father's style and name.

But wait! There's more!


In March 2013, The Atlantic published Jeffrey Goldberg's article, Six Degrees of Sally Oren, about the connection between former Ambassador Michael Oren's wife and the San Francisco music scene of the 1960's.
Scholars of Middle East politics and students of the San Francisco–centered psychedelic-rock movement of the 1960s have for years asked the same vexing question: Just how many degrees of separation exist between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Grateful Dead’s Jerry Garcia? 
The answer, it turns out, is one. The person who connects Benjamin Netanyahu directly to Jerry Garcia—and Shimon Peres to Jim Morrison, and, for that matter, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to Janis Joplin—is Sally Oren, the wife of Michael Oren, Israel’s ambassador to the United States. 
Oren, who today is in her early 60s, plays the role of diplomat’s spouse with distinction and grace. She hosts embassy functions and speaks at Jewish communal gatherings; she wears elegant gowns and attends White House parties. Forty-five years ago, however, she played Frisbee with the Grateful Dead and served as Jefferson Airplane’s muse.
Yes, Young Girl Sunday Blues (a later Jefferson Airplane song) was written (by Marty Balin and Paul Kantner) about Sally Oren.
By the Summer of Love, in 1967, Oren, then 16, was seeing every band worth seeing—Cream, the Doors, the Who. “I didn’t meet Jimi Hendrix, but he was fantastic.” She had only a nodding acquaintance with other artists. “With Jim Morrison it was sort of a ‘Hi, hi, how are you?’ sort of thing,” she said. 
She knew and loved Jefferson Airplane best. After the first Human Be-In, in January 1967, Jorma Kaukonen, the Airplane’s lead guitarist—“a Finnish Jew,” Oren noted—drove her home, where she served him milk and cookies. And she had a schoolgirl crush on Marty Balin, one of the group’s main songwriters. 
“I always wanted to position myself so that I would run into Marty. So one day I see him, and he says, ‘Hey, Sally, we just wrote two songs about you.’ I probably turned purple from embarrassment.” 
The first song, “Sally, Sally,” was never recorded. The second, “Young Girl Sunday Blues,” would appear on the group’s third album, After Bathing at Baxter’s.
But back to Berkeley. Or, as we locals called it back then, Berserkeley. (It turns out the name still fits.)

One might think that the young long-neck 5-string banjoist Abq Jew would have been a big follower of Pete Seeger. And he was. Also of the Greenbriar Boys and their banjo player, Bob Yellin (no relation). Also (of course) of Jefferson Airplane.

But what Abq Jew remembers most of the 1966 Berkeley Folk Festival is this (click here for an historical account):

Everyone followed Shlomo.

By which Abq Jew means: Everyone. Jews, not-Jews, young, not-young, everyone. Followed him around. All day. Listening to his songs, his tales. 1966. We knew.

כי בא מועד Ki Ba Moed. Here are the words (transliterated). And here is a delightful bluegrass version (by Cantor Adam Stotland and friend of Shaarey Zion in Montreal), from which the guitaristically observant may glean the chords.

But here is Shlomo, who started it all.

Happy Yom HaAtzmaut, Israel!
כי בא מועד Ki Ba Moed
The Appointed Time Is Come!

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