Music and Lit of a Sunday

January 15th, 2012 at 7:49 pm

One of my favorite writers is Isaac Bashevis Singer and I reread a great story last night that seemed germane to a lot of what I’ve been writing about of late.  It’s called A Major Din Torah from the wonderful book—among his best, I think—In My Father’s Court.

The story’s about how his scholarly and deeply religious father had to deal with a case—Rabbi’s often played the role of judge in the shtetls of Poland—involving business people and lawyers and secular issues, far from the usual Talmudic questions that his unworldly father much preferred.  When the case finally ended and the Rabbi adjudicated, Singer thought his father would be pleased with the high fee for such presiding over such a major Din Torah (big case).


“…my father began to talk to me about the Larned-Vov—the thirty-six hidden saints—the simple Jews, the tailors, shoemakers, and water carriers upon whom depends the continued existence of the world.  Father spoke of the poverty, their humility, their appearance of ingorance so that none would recongnize their true greatness.  He spoke of these concealed saints with a special love, and he said, “One contrite heart is of greater worth before the Almighty than thirty silk gabardines.”

Seemed somehow relevant.


Is it possible that after all my musical interludes, I’ve never featured Muddy Waters?   If so, I should seriously turn in my mojo.

Here’s an awesome tune, All Aboard, from the CD Fathers and Sons.  If you don’t own this CD, btw, put down what you’re doing, TIVO the football game, and go out and get it!

I’ve always loved this particular tune because it features both the traditional blues harp along with this awesome “chromonica” player, which I believe is basically a harmonica with a lot more notes than a regular blues harp.

“Well I worked hard all my life, now I’m gettin’ pushed around.”

[BTW, I must say, I like the Isaac Singer/Muddy Waters connection…a lot of soul therein.]


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3 comments in reply to "Music and Lit of a Sunday"

  1. Jean says:

    A chromatic harmonica has all 12 tones instead of just those tones in a particular key. So it has C-C#-D-Eb-E-F-F#-G-Ab-A-Bb-B-C, instead of C-D-E-F-G-A-B-C. [In other words, both the white and black keys on the piano, instead of just the white keys.] To play the blues on a C harmonica, you play in the key of G [mixolydian].

    But I don’t get the Isaac Singer/Muddy Waters connection?

    • Jared Bernstein says:

      Just thought it was interesting for them both to show up in the same post–Chicago blues giant; Yiddish novelist–the connection being that they’ve both got deep reservoirs of soul.

  2. RW says:

    Paul Butterfield occasionally used a chromatic harmonica but probably used his usual (diatonic) Hoener Marine on Fathers and Sons. It was Jeff Carp playing chromatic harp on “All Aboard,” the only tune on the record he appears in according to the album credits.

    NB: Muddy Waters ‘comeback’ album, Hard Again, is also a masterpiece but the first Paul Butterfield Blues Band album altered my musical universe and I can still listen to it any time, anywhere with vast pleasure.