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August 04, 2011 - Image 52

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2011-08-04

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arts & entertainment

A Prophet In Autumn

As Bob Dylan turned 70, even
the Cantors Assembly took notice.

George Robinson
Special to the Jewish News


n May 24, Bob Dylan turned 70,
unleashing a spate of editorials
in a bewildering range of publi-
cations. Radio stations across the country
and all over the FM band aired marathon
selections of his recordings. Book and
DVD publishers are releasing (and re-
releasing) Dylan biographies. Boomers
were treated to an extensive encomium in
AARP Magazine.
And the Cantors Assembly, the organi-
zation of Conservative chazzanim, had a
presentation on Dylan's songs at its annual
convention, this year held in Toronto from
May 22-26.
The Cantors Assembly? That one wasn't
"I've been a Bob Dylan fan practically
all my life," Cantor Sanford Cohn said
in a telephone interview from his West
Hartford, Conn., home. "It occurred to me
that his 70th birthday fell this year during
the Cantors Assembly convention:'
Cohn, who serves as cantor at the
Emanuel Synagogue, a Conservative con-
gregation in West Hartford, proposed that
the Assembly take note of this milestone
birthday with a program.
"We decided to have a homemade pro-
gram that would showcase some of our
own chazzanim doing their interpretations
of Dylan's music:' he said.
This event raised the inevitable ques-
tion: How Jewish is Bob Dylan? More
appropriately, how Jewish is his music?
What has his influence been on the Jewish
music world specifically?
Cantor Cohn readily admits that there


iluaf I Nate Bloom
ot am
Special to the Jewish News

in New Flicks

Opening Friday, Aug. 5, are The
Change-Up and Rise of the Planet of
MO N the Apes.
Change-Up is a romantic comedy
with a now-familiar fantasy twist:
%NIP Two very different people wake up to
find themselves in the body of the
other. The screenwriting team of The
Hangover is responsible for the script
so expect a lot of raunchy comedy.
Ryan Reynolds plays Mitch, an
unmarried slacker. Dave (Jason
Bateman), his lifelong buddy, is a
hard-working, successful lawyer with
a pretty wife (Leslie Mann) and kids.




A gust 4 " 2011


are very few Jewish elements in Dylan's
music itself. He likens the former Bob
Zimmerman to the late Debbie Friedman.
"In terms of nusakh (Jewish prayer
melody), in terms of Jewish tarn (flavor),
I don't think either of them have much
of the Jewish tradition in their music:' he
says. "The lyrics, on the other hand, that's
the Jewish connection:'
The multitalented violinist and film-
maker Yale Strom, a Detroit native and
fixture on the klezmer scene for years,
harkened back to early Dylan.
"I think Dylan's legacy for Jewish music
is his early songs like `Blowirf in the Wind,
`A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall, 'Masters of
War' — tunes that dealt with the prob-
lems of society, the human condition.
Since Abraham when he opened his tent
to strangers and offered them food, water
and a place to rest, through the prophets
of Isaiah, Jeremiah and Micah, Jews have
been taught that to extol God is to care for
all its creations.... Dylan certainly through
these early tunes of his cared about tikkun
olam (repairing the world) and created
`Jewish' music:'
Seth Rogovoy, whose Bob Dylan:
Prophet, Mystic, Poet (Scribner, 2009) is
one of the first and only books to discuss
Dylan in specifically Jewish terms, links
the singer-songwriter directly to the pro-
phetic tradition.
"I think the actual Jewish content of his
work has been woefully underestimated or
ignored:' Rogovoy said in a telephone inter-
view."The overarching prophetic impulse
that informs so much of his work is what is
so Jewish and so startling about Dylan."
He offers Dylan's exhausting performance
schedule as evidence of both his ongoing

After the body switch, the two have to
avoid ruining each other's lives while
they figure out a way to switch back.
Alan Arkin, 77, co-stars as Mitch's
estranged father, with Olivia Wilde as
Dave's hot colleague.
Rise purports to give us the origins
of the talking nonhuman primates
that were featured in all of the Planet
of the Apes movies.
Genetic engineering, we learn, gave
our "cousins" this ability and set
humankind and simian-kind on the
path to war.
James Franco, 33, stars as a scientist
who creates a formula that gives an ape
human intelligence and the ability to
talk. This ape escapes with the formula,
and you can guess what he does with it.

creative energy and his
sense of calling.
"He performs
100 nights a year all
around the world;'
Rogovoy noted. "A
hundred nights a year
— almost nobody
performs that much;
that's every three
nights with nights off
for traveling. And he's
done this nonstop for
over 20 years. Since he Bob Dylan
turned 50 he has con-
sistently been on the road — every night
he's not just doing the same show. He con-
tinues every night to reinvent himself.
"I think that he is just driven. He is in
the tradition of the prophets — that was
the prophets' job. They had no choice.
Dylan is somehow channeling that mis-
sion, that vibe, that energy. He gets up
there because he still has these things to
say and communicate!'
Some Jewish musicians haven't forgiven
Dylan for his relatively brief embrace of
Evangelical Christianity in the late 1970s.
Henry Sapoznik, an acclaimed klezmer
scholar and musician, said in an email,
"Despite being born in a Jewish home,
being a bar mitzvah and attending a Zionist
camp as a youth, Dylan [is] as Jewish as a
Reuben sandwich: brought into existence
by a Jew and named for him. But its very
elements — milk and meat — make it
unabashedly treif and untouchable."
Cohn admitted that Dylan's album
Saved "crossed the line for me."
But he says of "Slow Train Coming,"
which came out while the cantor was in

Made In Michigan

Speaking of Franco,
he is now filming
Oz: The Great and
Powerful at the brand-
new Raleigh Studios
in Pontiac. It is a pre-
quel of sorts to the
famous Oz stories by
L. Frank Baum.
James Franco
Franco plays a
small-time circus
magician who finds
himself magically
transported to the
Land of Oz. Mila
Kunis, 27, Rachel
Weisz, 41, and
Mile Kunis
Michelle Williams co-

the midst of his first extended experience
in Israel, "It may be Christian, but it's good
music. It's about God and belief and faith,
and it didn't insult me."
Rogovoy dryly noted that Dylan's
"Christian period" amounted to little more
than a year and a half, and it was followed
by the most intense and sustained period
of Jewish involvement of his career.
So, how Jewish is he?
Rogovoy probably speaks for most of us
when he said, "All we can do is base [an
answer] on what we have. How conscious
[of the issue] is Dylan? I have no clue, and
I wouldn't want to ask him. He has become
a master of obfuscation, taken it and
turned it into an art form."
Rogovoy paused, and then laughed.
"That fits his role as a prophet, too." I I

Bob Dylan, with special guest Leon
Russell, performs at Meadow Brook
Music Festival on Sunday, Aug. 7, at
7:30 p.m. $64 pavilion; $29.50 lawn.
(800) 745-3000; palacenet.com

star as Oz witches, with Zach Braff,
36, (Scrubs) as
Franco's assistant.
Directed by Detroit
native Sam Raimi,
51, the film will open
in March 2013.
Raimi's Oz has a
heavily Jewish pres-
ence, but so did the
Rachel Weisz
famous 1939 Wizard
of Oz, with Bert
Lahr as the Cowardly
Lion, songs by E.Y.
Harburq and Harold
Arlen, and costumes
(including the "ruby
slippers") by Adrian
Sam Raimi
Greenberg. I I

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