Tuesday, April 7, 2015

The Walk of Life

Dire Straits in Jewish Mode: Farblunget, farmisht, farklempt, Farxiga, farshimmelt, fartik. Yes, Abq Jew knows you've seen the Farxiga commercial.

And Abq Jew hears you cry, "What the heck is that song?" And Abq Jew answers:

Walk of Life   Dire Straits   1985

And Abq Jew further hears you cry, "What does this song Walk of Life mean?" And Abq Jew hears your pain and answers: No one is entirely sure, and everyone has a different explanation. Therefore, let us examine the text we have received.

Abq Jew says

Whoever has not explained
the following symbolic lyrics
(on Passover or whenever)
has not fulfilled his duty.

Oldies, goldies

One opinion states that "oldies, goldies" must refer to Golda Meir, of blessed memory, and lehavdil Goldie Hawn. Here the term "lehavdil" (to distinguish between; to separate) is used as shorthand for "to separate the dead from the living," which, according to Jewish custom (minhag Patchogue) we must always do.

In fact, it is Jewish custom not to hang pictures of living friends and relatives on the same wall as pictures of those who have already left the building. What to do when one of a pair of photos in one frame (see above) has departed, while the other has not?

The majority opinion states that "better you should just remove the picture from the wall until the time that G-d will choose."  Abq Jew has (he believes) resolved this issue with a black, squiggly line.


Be-Bop-A-Lula is, says Wikipedia, a rockabilly song first recorded in 1956 by Gene Vincent and His Blue Caps.
The writing of the song is credited to Gene Vincent and his manager, Bill "Sheriff Tex" Davis. Evidently the song originated in 1955, when Vincent was recuperating from a motorcycle accident at the US Navy hospital in Norfolk, Virginia. 
"Be-Bop-A-Lula" has been covered by numerous and varied artists. The Everly Brothers released a version only two years after Vincent's, on their 1958 self-titled debut album, and they included it as part of the setlist at their Royal Albert Hall reunion concert in 1983. English rocker Cliff Richard covered the song for his own debut album, Cliff, in 1959. Vincent's rockabilly colleague Jerry Lee Lewis recorded it for the 1971 album Monsters, and Carl Perkins offered his own take in 1996 on the album The Man & The Legend
The Beatles played the song regularly during their early years, and a raucous live version (complete with guest vocals) can be heard on Live! at the Star-Club in Hamburg, Germany; 1962. John Lennon later recorded the song for his 1975 album Rock 'n' Roll, and it was used as the B-side for the Apple single release of "Ya Ya" in Germany later that year. Paul McCartney performed an acoustic version on the 1991 live album Unplugged (The Official Bootleg)
What I Say

What I Say is an American Rhythm and blues song, by Ray Charles released in 1959.
As single divided into two parts, it was one of the first Soul songs. The composition was improvised one evening late in 1958 when Charles, his orchestra, and backup singers had played their entire set list at a show and still had time left; the response from many audiences was so enthusiastic that Charles announced to his producer that he was going to record it.
I Got A Woman

I Got A Woman is a song co-written and recorded by American R&B / soul musician Ray Charles and released as a single in December 1954.
The song builds on "It Must Be Jesus" by the Southern Tones, which Ray Charles was listening to on the radio while on the road with his band in the summer of 1954. 
He and a member of his band, trumpeter Renald Richard, penned a song that was built along a gospel-frenetic pace with secular lyrics and a jazz-inspired rhythm and blues (R&B) background. 
The song would be one of the prototypes for what later became termed as "soul music" after Charles released "What'd I Say" nearly five years later.
I Got A Woman has been covered by many artists, including Elvis Presley, the Beatles, Anneke van Giersbergen, and Ricky Nelson.

Down in the tunnels

The peshat (simple explanation) is that this is a reference to, as the British say, busking in the Underground. Or, as New Yorkers say, panhandling in the subway. But there is a remez (hint), a derash  (metaphor), and, perhaps, a sod (secret) as well, as Abq Jew will soon explain.

The song about the sweet loving woman

"My Sweet Lovin' Woman" is a song written by American blues musician Robert Nighthawk (1909-1967) under his given name, Robert McCollum.

The song about the knife

Mack the Knife or "The Ballad of Mack the Knife", originally "Die Moritat von Mackie Messer", is, Wikipedia tells us,
a song composed by Kurt Weill with lyrics by Bertolt Brecht for their music drama Die Dreigroschenoper, or, as it is known in English, The Threepenny Opera
In the best known English translation, from the Marc Blitzstein 1954 version of The Threepenny Opera, which played Off-Broadway for over six years, the words are:
Oh the shark has pretty teeth dear,
And he shows them pearly white
Just a jack-knife has Macheath dear
And he keeps it out of sight.
Blitzstein's translation provides the basis for most of the popular versions we know today, including those by Louis Armstrong (1956) and Bobby Darin (1959; Darin's lyrics differ slightly), and most subsequent swing versions. 
Weill's widow, Lotte Lenya, the star of both the original 1928 German production and the 1954 Blitzstein Broadway version, was present in the studio during Armstrong's recording. He spontaneously added her name to the lyrics, which already named several of Macheath's female victims. 
Abq Jew notes with sadistic pleasure the ubiquity of happy, upbeat sweetheart murder ballads involving knives.

Banks of the Ohio, Pretty Polly, Tom Dooley, or one of their ilk may be the song referenced; but Abq Jew has loved Mack the Knife since he went with Peterson High's CSF (California Scholarship Federation) to a performance of The Threepenny Opera at a way-off-off-Broadway theater on San Francisco's Fisherman's Wharf in 1968.

And although "Banks of the Ohio" is a great tune for Adon Olam, Abq Jew thinks "Mack the Knife" is better.

Although many of Walk of Life's remaining lyrics are clear and understandable, there remain two important but unanswered questions.

1. Who is "Johnny"?

There is strong support for the conjecture that "Johnny" is anybody - any musician struggling to do what it takes to make a living, make a life, and / or make a statement. Which includes just about any musician who has been or will be born.

But one Walk of Life exegete has promoted a different interpretation. In his view, "Johnny" is none other than John Lennon.

In this interpretation, "Down in the tunnels trying to make it pay" refers to the early days of the Beatles - the Cavern Club in Liverpool, and the Kaiserkeller ("Cellar") in Hamburg. And yes, in those days the Beatles' repertoire included songs listed above.

2. What is the message of "Walk of Life"?

Here is a deep and multifaceted question to which Walk of Life provides a simple answer:
And after all the violence and double talk
There's just a song in all the trouble and the strife
You do the walk, you do the walk of life
Mark Freuder Knopfler was born on 12 August 1949 in Glasgow, Scotland,
to an English mother, Louisa Mary, and a Jewish-Hungarian father,
Erwin Knopfler ... His father was an architect and a chess player,
whose anti-fascist sympathies and Jewish parentage forced him
to flee from his native Hungary in 1939 ....

Abq Jew firmly believes that Mark Knofler (who wrote the song) is entirely within the Jewish teaching first expressed in Deuteronomy 30:19 -
I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse; therefore choose life, that you may live, you and your seed



Especially on Pesach ...
G-d wants us to sing & dance!

Hag Sameach, New Mexico!
Good Yontif, Albuquerque!
A Zissen Pesach, World!

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