Remember the time you said you’d never heard of Leonard Cohen?
(A remark much repeated with most horrid glee at every music festival between here and Galilee).
You made things worse by carolling, “Hallelujah! He’s probably never heard of me! Unless you mean Lenny Cohen from round the corner. The same Lenny who was chucked out of synagogue when the rabbi discovered his family could never have been from our Kingdom of Priests, as his mum had been a Reform convert who’d married at the Progressive congregation in town.”
Then when we went to Jerusalem’s own Woodstock, you began all over again – a doleful chorus, sadly out of tune.
All I’d said was, “Isn’t Maya Johanna Menachem sweet? She can’t stop dancing. She’s got happy, pretty feet – and keeps them naked – just like Sandie Shaw.”
“Don’t be silly!,” you retorted. “It’s just bloody hot here. Maya Wotsit Thingy won’t know about Sandie Shaw. What’s more she’s probably never heard of …”
“Oh, for God’s sake! Shut up! Maya’s a consummate musician with an innate understanding of her art. She describes how lyrics have patterns; change shape, like poetry on the page. If she knows Donovan – the U.K.’s own Dylan - then she’ll ….”
“Always have something there to remind her?”
“Very droll. Anyway, here’s tonight’s big challenge,” I crowed. “Maya’s only three – no, make that two – feet away from us on stage. If you want to understand things better, go, ask her yourself.”
Scaredy Cat! Of course you didn’t! So I had to explain everything in hurried whispers, between the songs. But you’re right. Donovan seemed one hundred per cent obsessed by ‘yellow’. Something to do with banana skins and vibrators …
But Maya went much higher ( ‘Come from the holy fire, perne in a gyre’ ), sang Bird On A Wire which she dedicated to Moshe Silman and other souls in ashes. This, I said, was the reality of the new Woodstock. Remembering great music in Israel to make it holy. Not just an international political pariah; an unhappy place of social unrest.
Then you wised up.
“Is this why Cohen’s treated like some sort of Jewish saint in Ireland?,” you asked.
“ I’ve been studying him - and the local population – very hard indeed. It’s odd how so many have a love-hate thing going with Jews and Israel. They’re fairly drenched in bible, understand the prayerful allusions in Cohen’s songs – and seem almost transfixed, nigh seduced by his tender ardour for the work of William Butler Yeats. Then, there’s everything else.”
“Not bad for you. I’m quite impressed. I never thought you’d get beyond Freddie and the Dreamers.”
“You know how to hurt a guy,” you said, pulling me towards you.
“But there are times, even now, when I can make him feel rather good. What, for instance, would you say to a nice cuppa tea?”
*Maya Johanna Menachem appeared last weekend with guitarist, Shay Tochner and violinist Yonatan Miller, at the WOMINI (World Music & Arts Institute of Northern Israel) studios in Shorashim, near Karmiel, Galilee. This picture was taken by Yishay Sklare at the Kraft stadium, Jerusalem.
(Copyright, Natalie Irene Wood – 10 August 2012)