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Thursday, February 21, 2008
Women Who Rock: Opening Essay

This is part of our Feb/Mar 2008 issue.

The first Jewish musician I ever fell in love with was Debbie Friedman. Specifically, it was "Miriam's Song," in which Friedman describes the dance and singing of the women after the Exodus. I hadn't heard that song in about ten years. So I dug out Friedman's And You Shall Be a Blessing (ok, didn't dig it out -- I bought it off iTunes) and re-listened to "Miriam's Song." It wasn't as catchy as I remembered, or quite as soul shattering. But I recalled the feeling I had, thirteen-years-old, listening to Friedman articulate Miriam's jubilation as she led the Jewish people in song. It was the sound of staring into the desert and singing into the abyss.

I'm older now, and my tastes no longer run to Jewish youth group music. Now I'm titillated by music that rocks: Amy Winehouse's cigarette and scotch scratched vocals (not to mention her made-for-tabloid self-destruction that gives rock music that sexy auto annihilation tone), Regina Spektor's freakfolk flights of fantasy, and Northern State's prankish, snappy hip-hop. But there's still something that digs back to that Debbie Friedman song -- something that makes an artist rock beyond the guitars and the snarl. It's the confrontation of the unknown, and something blistering and defiant in confronting it.

So why an entire issue devoted to "Jewish Women Who Rock"? To be honest, I don't have a great reason for that. Sifting through the artists we've chosen to spotlight are some musicians and singers and songwriters that we have fallen in love with and want to share. But most times the religion and gender of these singers are incidental. When I listen to Sophie Milman I'm not thinking of synagogue or Hebrew school; I'm reminded of smoky jazz clubs and speakeasies. Which is to say, these artists are more than the sum of their categories. The operative word in "Jewish Women Who Rock" is the last. All these artists? They rock.

--Text by Mordechai Shinefield

This is part of our Feb/Mar 2008 issue.
posted by Benyamin | 5:04 PM | Link | |
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