Recently, the amazing cantor at our synagogue, Magda Fishman (if you get a chance to hear her sing, run don't walk!)encouraged me to join our synagogue choir after a lifetime of thinking I couldn't sing. I've now taken as my motto the line from Florence Foster Jenkins: "People may say I can't sing, but no one can ever say I didn't sing."
I was driving home from rehearsal last night (we're currently on double time rehearsals for the High Holy Days) and one of my favorite cover songs came up on shuffle:
I wasn't a happy teenager, and I listened to a LOT of Pink Floyd. Dark Side of the Moon is still one of my favorite albums of all time, and the necklace I wear around my neck is the "Shine on You Crazy Diamond" I got for my 40th birthday, which I never take off unless I have to for medical or security reasons. One of my first bylines was a review of Pink Floyd's Wall Tour concert in my high school newspaper.
It didn't make me upset when Wyclef Jean did this cover, as it appeared to for some angry commenters on You Tube. I LOVED the fact that the same music that provided me meaning and strength as a disaffected, depressed white female teen in the suburbs did the same for two refugee teens of color in the projects of New York City.
It's the same thing I felt when I went to a Talking Dreads concert at the Fairfield Theater a little while back -
I've always loved the Talking Heads. Went to see them in concert in the 80's a bunch of times - including in Chapel Hill when I was in college. Seeing their music performed by Mystic Bowie with this new and different energy was nothing other than awesome.
One of my favorite Led Zeppelin songs is When the Levee Breaks.
But that was a rock n roll, driving version of Memphis Minnie:
I have them both in my collection. But when the shizzle hits the fan in my life, I tend to listen to the Led Zeppelin version, because it the driving drum beat gives me strength. Maybe that's my inner teen rock chick?
I guess this all got me thinking about the question - where is the line between "cultural appropriation" and "cross fertilization of ideas"? I ask this in a genuine way, as a creative person, who was brought up to learn from and appreciate and respect all cultures.
My late Grandma Dorothy said this:
"We are all part of one humanity. There is no pure group . We are all mixed up through commerce and conquest through the ages."
"How can we trace the influence of one group upon the other...through the arts, through music, through dance, through theatre, and literature!".
So I continue to ponder this, and welcome constructive response.