Aired February 2nd, 2013 on Dave’s Gone By. Youtube clip: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-rWYhZ0sCBo
Shalom Dammit! This is Rabbi Sol Solomon with a Rabbinical Reflection for the week of February 3rd, 2013.
We are such a disposable society, any story – from a terrible flood to a bear lumbering into a shopping center – any event is good for two news cycles, and then it’s on to the next. We had a fiscal cliff – “Oy, the fiscal cliff, the fiscal cliff, the fiscal cliff!” Until some lunatic shot up a dayschool. Then it was “gun control, gun control, gun control!” Until next week, when it’s – Oh, I dunno, Chris Brown beating Rihanna again.
And the old 15 minutes of fame is now four minutes. Unless it’s an embarrassing or criminal kind of fame, in which case you get a show on VH-1 and live in perpetuity on Vimeo.
Our cultural motto is “What have you done for me lately?” And if lately is more than six months ago, we don’t even stay for the answer. So it’s heartening to find to find one trend bucking the trend. (And if you’ve ever had your trend bucked, you know just how pleasurable that can be.) The trend is for dinosaurs to roam the earth again. And by dinosaurs, I mean the great rock-and-roll stars of the `60’s.
When the entertainment community sought a charitable response to Hurricane Sandy, whom did they turn to? This week’s flavor of the month? No. Paul McCartney, the Rolling Stones, The Who. People whose combined ages would make Methuselah go, “Damn, they’re getting up there.”
At the benefit, Sir Paul rocked out with the members of Nirvana who weren’t driven to suicide by their wives. The Rolling Stones played two songs – which doesn’t sound like a lot, but in concert, that’d be 85 dollars worth right there. And then you had The Who – who reminded us how lucky Horton was to hear them. Yes, Roger Daltrey’s bare chest looked like the underside of a roasted ham, but the rest of him rocked out. And nobody does a windmill like Pete Townshend. Well, maybe the Dutch.
Anyhoo, around the same time, all the members of Led Zeppelin who didn’t drink 40 consecutive shots of Absolut were making the talk-show circuit with a DVD. Neil Young was putting out new music with Crazy Horse, David Bowie was finishing up a new album, and Paul Simon’s planning an Australian tour.
And yet there are grumblers who say that these people are all past their prime and should have retired long ago. Their voices are shot, all their best songs are three decades old, and fans are paying big bucks for diminished returns. In many cases this is true. If you go see Bob Dylan on his never-ending tour, you’re not getting 1966 electric Dylan and the Band; you’re getting 2013 eccentric Dylan and the bland. But that’s not just a function of age. Bob Dylan’s been giving shitty concerts since 1978. And 20, 30 years ago, a bad night could be infuriating. But now?
Is it enough to just see Zimmerman stand there onstage, mumble through a dozen classics and then give everyone hearing damage from his overmiked harmonica? You’re damn right it’s enough, because he’s still here, and we’re lucky to have him. Same with all these groups. If the Rolling Stones can’t make another “Goat’s Head Soup” – because they don’t have enough teeth to chew goat meat anymore; if David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust rises and falls – and can’t get up; if Leonard Cohen sings “Hallelujah” because he made it to the toilet before soiling his Huggies; if Paul McCartney sings “Help!” less often than he presses his Life Alert for help, if Neil Young has a heart of gold – and a hip of titanium; it’s still nice when they make albums. It’s what they do.
Retirement comes hard to artists, especially if they don’t want to become an oldies act, or even if they do. I guess patient zero in this case history is Frank Sinatra. By his final concerts, he was forgetting lyrics, repeating songs, stumbling over the fine line between indulgence and embarrassment. But ask anybody who went if they’d have missed a second of it. If they wouldn’t gladly sit through 90 minutes of, “Well, that’s what he’s like now” to be reminded for just five, “ahh, that’s what he was like then.”
So hail to the dinosaurs who walk among us. If their joints creak a little when they stomp, well, so do mine. And if they wanna make a little more noise before they go extinct, that’s not a shame, it’s a gift. With all due respect to Neil Young, the great ones don’t have to burn out or fade away. Just play.
This has been a Rabbinical Reflection from Rabbi Sol Solomon, Temple Sons of Bitches in Great Neck, New York.
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