Reasons to love our job, part 1

One of the coolest things about working at a newspaper is you never know who will call. Late this week, it was jazz vocalist Ben Sidran calling out of the blue because he has a gig coming up at the Musical Instrument Museum.

First of all, it’s very surprising to hear of someone as accomplished as Sidran handling his own promotional work. And second of all, he clearly didn’t expect me to know who he was. Well, I happen to listen to a lot of jazz and found his “Dylan Different” album a sort of revelation. I mean, who expects to hear Bob Dylan in a jazz context. I remember Carlos Santana sneering to me about Dylan being a hillbilly.

But Sidran’s mind is clearly open, as is very evident just in reading the opening chapter of his book: “There Was a Fire: Jews, Music and the American Dream,” which arrived Friday at the office. In the opening chapter, he makes a case for King David as the first singer-songwriter rock star, with his excessive appetites (Bathsheba) and impressive body of hit songs (the psalms). “The salient fact here is that the Jewish narrative, from the beginning, was meant to be sung, to come alive in the raising of the communal voice. Music and meaning go together, and they are revealed through a community coming to an emotional consensus in song. This is exactly what a ‘hit song’ is. If we each knew what a hit song was, we’d all write them; only the community knows, and even then it doesn’t know until it hears one,” Sidran writes.

The book serves as the basis for his Oct. 13 concert at the MIM. For more details, click here:


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