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Woodstock

Confirmed Jewish Musicians at Woodstock

 
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DAY ONE

Sweetwater (band)

Jewish member: ALAN MALAROWITZ (1950-1981)

From Sweetwater Official Web Site:

Alan was our original drummer. Quite young, when we formed (17), he had good feel and instinct for his instrument.. He became a touring and studio drummer in his later career, but died suddenly in a car accident one night between L.A. and Las Vegas.

The band Sweetwater was really hot when they played Woodstock. However, their lead female singer was severely injured four months after the festival and didn’t recover for decades. Her injury effectively ended the band.

BERT SOMMER, solo singer/songwriter. (1949-1990). Bert Sommer grew-up on Long Island and in Hartsdale, New York, where he was a bar mitzvah. He was a friend and protégé of Artie Kornfeld, who signed him to Capitol Records. He was the second lead in the original production of “Hair” on Broadway. Blessed with a lovely voice, he got the only standing ovation at Woodstock. However, since he was with Capitol Records, Warner Brothers cut him out of the Woodstock film and out of the first festival song compilation records. (Warner also had a record label). This severely damaged Sommer’s career momentum. He had one mid-level hit, “We’re All Playing in the Band.” The newest Woodstock compilation sets feature Sommer and you can see him perform one song at Woodstock on Youtube.

Bert’s friend, Victor Kahn, a famous graphic designer, has created a great tribute site to him. It can be found here:

www.bertsommer.com

Kahn’s own site is interesting. He designed many of the iconic rock record covers of the ‘60s:

www.thegreatillusion.com/author.html

ARLO GUTHRIE, solo singer/songwriter.

Arlo was born and raised in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn. His father was legendary folk singer Woody Guthrie, who wasn’t Jewish. His mother, Marjorie, was Jewish and a former Martha Graham dancer who ran a dance academy. Arlo was raised in the heart of what one might call the Jewish leftist/socialist milieu so vibrant in New York at the time of his birth. He had a folk music bar mitzvah.

In 1967, he became famous with his comedic anti-Vietnam war story-song, “Alice’s Restaurant” (which was made into a film.) There wasn’t a long ideological distance from the ‘culture’ Arlo grew-up in from the ethos of the “Woodstock Nation.”

Arlo still performs. As an adult, he briefly practiced Catholicism, but gave that up decades ago. He calls himself spiritual, but unaffiliated. His wife of many years is Jewish.

DAY TWO

COUNTRY JOE MCDONALD (as solo act)

Like Arlo, Joe McDonald is the son of two leftist radicals. His father was not Jewish and his mother was Jewish. He was raised secular (with just a short stint at a Jewish Day school). He identifies as Jewish. Joe’s parents moved to Berkeley, California when he was a child and it was in Berkeley, in 1964, that he met Barry Melton (see below). They formed a duo, which later expanded into a full band. Very much identified with the anti-Vietnam war movement, McDonald (and Melton) is most famous for the anti-war song, “The Fish Cheer (What are we fighting for…).” For a long time, he dated Janis Joplin, who also appeared at Woodstock.

McDonald still tours and records. A Navy veteran, himself, he has done a huge amount of work on behalf of veterans.

Canned Heat (Group)

Jewish members:

HARVEY “the snake” MANDEL, guitarist

He’s considered one of the best blues guitarists of his generation and still actively tours and records.

LARRY “the mole” TAYLOR, bass guitarist (also known as Skip Taylor)

A very good bass player, Taylor grew-up in Brooklyn, the son of a WASP father from Tennessee and a Jewish mother. His late older brother, Mel Taylor, was the drummer for the famous instrumental rock band, the Ventures. I believe that Larry identifies as Jewish like, I know, Mel Taylor did.

Grateful Dead (Group)

Jewish member: MICKEY HART, drummer.

The Grateful Dead were not very famous when they played Woodstock. Over the next three decades, they emerged as the favorite rock band of aging and “new’ hippies. Hart, one of the group’s two drummers, is certainly Jewish—but rarely talks about being Jewish. Hart tours with the surviving members of the Grateful Dead under the band name, The Dead.

Jefferson Airplane (Group)

Jewish members:

JORMA KAUKONEN, lead guitarist/songwriter

Raised in Washington, D.C., Jorma Kaukonen, the son of a Jewish mother and a Finnish-American, non-Jewish father, is considered one of the greatest rock guitarists of all-time. He still actively tours and records and runs a music camp on the grounds of his home in Ohio. His wife, Vanessa, is a convert to Judaism.

Jorma’s odyssey to becoming a religious Jew is detailed in this Standard piece:

Jorma searches for his Jewish soul

His personal website is very good, too:

www.jormakaukonen.com

MARTY BALIN, Vocalist/songwriter.

A very good singer and songwriter, Balin was inducted into the Rock Hall of Fame along with the rest of the Airplane. He still sometimes sings with the latest version of the Jefferson Starship, the successor band to the Airplane. Balin has always been very secular, acknowledging his Jewish ancestry, but not identifying as “anything.”

DAY THREE

Country Joe & The Fish (Group)

Jewish members:

COUNTRY JOE, see above

BARRY “the Fish” MELTON, guitarist, vocals. (Born 1947)—Barry Melton was born in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn. His parents, like Arlo Guthrie and Joe McDonald, were both leftist radicals. His parents were good friends with Woody and Marjorie Guthrie. Bary moved to Los Angeles when Barry was 8. When he was 17, Barry moved to the San Francisco Bay Area and there he met Joe McDonald. Barry very much identifies as Jewish.

He says his parents wanted him to be a leftist folksinger and he fulfilled their wish until 1977, when his son was born. He chose then to become an attorney, so he could get off the road and spend most of his time with his newborn child and wife. He continued and continues to play music amid his legal career. He is now in the process of retiring as head of the Public Defender’s office of the California county where he resides. He says that he felt he has kept to his ideals, formed by Jewish humanitarian values—whether as a musician or a lawyer.

Please visit Barry Melton’s interesting website:

www.counterculture.net/thefish/

MARK KAPNER, keyboards, organ. (Born approx. 1945) Kapner played with Neil Diamond, the Jewish rock star from Brooklyn, after leaving County Joe and the Fish.

DOUG MELTZER, bass. (Born approx. 1945) Meltzer is now a professor at the University of Pittsburgh. He earned a doctorate in information systems and teaches this subject.

Leslie West and Mountain (Group)

Jewish member: guitarist LESLIE WEST

Leslie West grew-up in Queens, New York. Although his father studied to be a cantor, Leslie was never much interested in religion and had a quickie bar mitzvah. His first important band, the Vagrants, formed in 1965, was produced by Artie Kornfeld. Just before Woodstock, he formed the blues/rock band “Mountain,” best known for its hit, “Mississippi Queen.”

Shortly after Woodstock, Canadian Jewish drummer Corky Laing, and bassist Felix A. Pappalardi joined “Mountain”—and all the hit Mountain albums featured these three guys.

Pappalardi wasn’t Jewish, but his Jewish friends considered him an “honorary Jew.” He spent many summers at a Jewish kids camp, where his father was the camp physician. He used to startle his Jewish friends with his Yiddish fluency. Pappalardi was shot to death by his wife in 1983. He was 43.

Laing and West still sometimes play together—but Laing will never play on the High Holidays.

The Band (Group)

Jewish member: ROBBIE ROBERTSON, guitarist, songwriter.

The group, “The Band,” formed in 1968. All but one of the members had been Bob Dylan’s ‘unnamed’ back-up band during 1965-66. Robertson was the leader of “The Band” until the original line-up disbanded in 1976. A talented guitarist and good songwriter, Robertson is the son of a Canadian Jewish father and a Canadian Aboriginal (Indian) mother. Robertson wasn’t raised in any faith. He has dabbled in Aboriginal spirituality as an adult.

Blood, Sweat, and Tears (Group)

This group was originally formed and headed-up by Jewish musician Al Kooper. However, Kooper had departed by the time the band played Woodstock and the band’s lead singer then was David Clayton-Thomas, who isn’t Jewish. Most of the band’s big radio hits came in the “Clayton-Thomas era.’

Jewish members who played Woodstock:

BOBBY COLOMBY, drums. (Later a top record executive)

JERRY HYMAN, trombone.

STEVE KATZ, guitar, harmonica, vocals.

FRED LIPSIUS, alto sax, piano.

LEW SOLOFF, trumpet, flugelhorn.

DAY FOUR

Sha-Na-Na (Group)

Sha-Na-Na was formed by Columbia University students in 1968 as a spoof of the 1950s do-wop groups. Its Woodstock appearance set the band on the path of great later success—including appearing in the movie, “Grease,” and a syndicated TV show.

Jewish members:

ALAN COOPER, bass vocalist

Cooper was the original bass vocalist for the group. He was replaced by Jon “Bowzer” Bauman in 1971 (who is also Jewish). Cooper went on to study at the Jewish Theological Seminary, where he remains as a professor of Hebrew literature. He once said that he felt he had to leave the group because the “rock and roll lifestyle” was not compatible with Jewish religious and moral values.

HENRY GROSS, vocals, guitar. Gross went on to some success as a solo artist, having a huge hit song in 1975 (“Shannon”). He attended an Orthodox Jewish day school, where he was a bit of a rebel. However, the other kids forgave him his rebellious ways because he was a really big kid and he protected the other Orthodox Jewish kids from non-Jewish bullies on the street. Gross, still a practicing Jew, is a Nashville music producer today.

ELLIOT CAHN, vocals, guitar

 

More on: Woodstock

 
 
 

School of Rock to celebrate 40th anniversary with 40 coast-to-coast events

Forty years after music filled the air at Woodstock, a new generation of musicians is stepping up to pay tribute. In honor of the landmark 40th anniversary of the most famous event in rock history, kids from The Paul Green School of Rock Music are taking the stage at 40 Woodstock tributes in festivals from New York City to Miami and Chicago to San Diego — all during the anniversary weekend.

 
 

Musician says Woodstock changed music — not the world

The music world has changed a lot since Woodstock, said guitarist Leslie West, frontman for the blues/rock group Mountain and veteran of the landmark event.

“I can’t say exactly how,” he said, “but something happened to music. It’s like, you know it when you see it.”

For example, said the Englewood resident, whose band was new when it was booked to play at Woodstock — in fact, he said, it was only their fourth performance — where once rock was only on AM radio, “now there was FM, playing 20-minute tracks. It wasn’t just blasting voices.”

 
 

The Jewish connection

This week marks the 40th anniversary of the historic Woodstock Music Festival, which attracted perhaps as many as a half-million, mostly young, concertgoers. The peaceful behavior of festival-goers gave, and still gives, Woodstock the aura of being the tangible affirmation of the “peace and love” ethos of the ’60s hippie “counterculture.” The “good vibes” were preserved for posterity by the best concert film of the ’60s.

As I recall from Hebrew school, the Torah likes the number 40 — 40 years in the desert and so on. So, I guess it is appropriate, on this anniversary, to explore Woodstock’s many Jewish connections.

Let’s put on a show

 
 
 
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Stay tuned for the return of comments

 

Dentistry in Africa

Local father-daughter duo fix teeth in Jewish Ugandan village

Kayla Grunstein’s parents, Shira and Dr. Robert Grunstein, didn’t want her to “be a brat,” Kayla said.

They wanted her to learn something about the world and her place in it, about the importance of work and the satisfaction of a job well done, about gratitude and generosity and giving.

They also were not adverse to allowing the 14-year-old some excitement and adventure at the same time.

In fact, a lot of excitement and adventure. With the Abayudaya in Uganda.

This is how it happened.

Her father, Dr. Robert Grunstein, is a dentist. He lives in Teaneck but has spent his career working mainly with lower-income children in Passaic and Paterson. He had the brilliant idea (yes, this is journalism, but some things are so clear that they just must be said, so brilliant idea it is) of buying an old fire truck and turning it into a mobile dental office. “Kids love fire trucks, and they are ambivalent at best about going to the dentist,” he said. “If you mix the two, it becomes more palatable.

 

We’ve got the horse right here…

Local Orthodox family wins the Kentucky Derby. Really!

It took American Pharoah barely more than two minutes and two seconds to win the 2015 Kentucky Derby.

For Joanne Zayat of Teaneck, whose husband, Ahmed, owns American Pharoah (and yes, that is how it is spelled), those two minutes and barely more than two seconds stretched out and then blurred and bore little relation to regular time as it usually passes.

There she was — really, there they were, Ahmed and Joanne Zayat, their four children — all Orthodox Jews — and a small crowd of friends and relatives, in one of the owners’ boxes at Churchill Downs in Lexington, Kentucky, on a glorious flowering spring Shabbat, watching as their horse won America’s most iconic horse race.

How did they get there?

 

The with-luck-not-too-lonely woman of faith

Local hiker joins love of Judaism and wilderness to create walking adventures 

When you think of the words “wild” and “New Jersey,” you might think of bloated, run-amok politicians, or Sopranos in driveways or diners, or cement-shod bodies tossed under the Meadowlands. It is, after all, the country’s most densely populated state, and better known for the stadium than for actual, you know, meadowlands.

But New Jersey also is home to natural beauty, to wild animals and rattlesnakes, to gravity-defying geological formations, and to part of the Appalachian Trail, as well as to abandoned iron mines, crumbling old mansions, and other human-made artifacts decaying back into nature.

If you look at the maps put out by the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference, sturdily and colorfully printed on a rip-proof, paper-like material called Tyvek — because it is meant to be used by serious hikers on real trails — you will see that the northern part of this state, beginning in western Bergen County and going west from there, is full of parks that are ringed with hiking trails. Just to their north, Rockland, Ulster, and Sullivan counties in New York state are similarly rich in accessible but rough trails.

 

RECENTLYADDED

‘Indescribable’ connections

Zahal Shalom brings Israeli veterans to Ridgewood for touring, love

What happened when the alarm went off in the Pentagon was a reminder of one of the reasons local volunteers behind Zahal Shalom are so eager to open their homes, their schedules, and their wallets to 10 wounded Israeli veterans each year.

During their two-week stay, the Israelis get to see New Jersey, New York, and Washington, D.C.

In Washington, they visited the monuments, ate in the Senate dining room, and took a tour of the Pentagon, where — and this was not on the five-page itinerary — a fire drill caused alarms to clang loudly.

For Anat Nitsan, the alarm brought back memories from the Yom Kippur war, more than 40 years ago. Now an art curator, then she was a soldier at the air force base at Sharm el-Sheikh, at the southern tip of Sinai. She survived the initial surprise attack from the Egyptian air force. And then, in a case of friendly fire, she watched in horror as a missile seemed to target her directly. Somehow she survived that too — though not without a case of post-traumatic stress disorder.

 

We’ve got the horse right here…

Local Orthodox family wins the Kentucky Derby. Really!

It took American Pharoah barely more than two minutes and two seconds to win the 2015 Kentucky Derby.

For Joanne Zayat of Teaneck, whose husband, Ahmed, owns American Pharoah (and yes, that is how it is spelled), those two minutes and barely more than two seconds stretched out and then blurred and bore little relation to regular time as it usually passes.

There she was — really, there they were, Ahmed and Joanne Zayat, their four children — all Orthodox Jews — and a small crowd of friends and relatives, in one of the owners’ boxes at Churchill Downs in Lexington, Kentucky, on a glorious flowering spring Shabbat, watching as their horse won America’s most iconic horse race.

How did they get there?

 

100 years in Hoboken

United Synagogue’s building celebrates its centennial

Hoboken is surprisingly small, given its outsize reputation.

It’s only got 50,000 residents, and its nickname, Mile Square City, is roughly accurate. (“It actually covers an area of two square miles when including the under-water parts in the Hudson River,” Wikipedia helpfully tells us. It’s hard to understand why anyone would want to count the underwater parts.)

It’s a city with a storied history — Frank Sinatra, “On the Waterfront” and therefore Marlon Brando, gangsters, music, angst, longshoremen, gritty local color. Its lack of parking, which makes finding a space in Manhattan seem relatively as easy as finding one in, say, Montana, is legendary.

For the last few decades, Hoboken’s been home to young people who work in Manhattan but don’t want or can’t afford to live there; it pulses with singles, who might make noises about staying but have tended to move once they’re married and certainly once they have kids.

Hoboken also has a more recent history of apparently being on the cusp, the verge, the very sharp tip of change, but somehow not quite making it.

 
 
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