Monday, March 1, 2010

Hal Linden headlines Detroit's JCC Stephen Gottlieb Music Fest

Hal LindenI don't remember if I mentioned this before, but I recently joined the executive committee of the JCC Stephen Gottlieb Music Fest. The music fest brings all sorts of interesting Jewish music acts to the North Coast (aka Michigan) every spring. I'm going to spend this week writing about a number of the acts playing the fest, both as a shameless plug and as a chance to think aloud about how different types of music collide in a Jewish music fest and what that says about American Jews.

The headliner of this year's music fest is Hal Linden, who will be playing on March 6. If you know who he is, you're doing better than I did when I first saw the event schedule. What if I said "Barney Miller?" Did that do it? It did for me. I'm old enough. Hal Linden is the Tony and Emmy award winning actor who played Barney Miller on the hit 1970's tv show of the same name. He's also a fine singer and musician and is Jewish, "Hal Linden" being a stage name for a Mr. Harold Lipshitz.

Here's the official fest blurb...
"Actor/singer/musician Hal Linden has earned three Emmys and Broadway’s highest accolade, the Tony, for his lead in “The Rothschilds.” Best known as the star of the popular series “Barney Miller,” Linden began his show business career as a clarinet player and later toured as a singer with the Sammy Kaye, Bobby Sherwood and Boyd Raeburn bands. Join us for an evening of outstanding music and song; Hal Linden is a riveting entertainer not to be missed!"

Here's a fun video of Linden goofing around on the 1970's show Captain and Tennille (which I don't remember.)

I'll be honest. I'm going to miss this one. I'm a fan of traditional jazz and I'm sure that Linden puts on a great show. But babysitting is expensive, going out without my wife isn't much fun, and with a Jewish music fest kicking off...this one just isn't compelling enough for me. It isn't, well, Jewish enough for me.

If the opportunity were to come my way, I might see Linden at a jazz fest. Or at a celebrity showcase of some kind. But I don't get the idea of him playing at a Jewish music fest. Other than banal fact that he's Jewish, his music says little to me about my religious life or cultural history. All it does is remind me that fairly regularly Jews make good TV shows.

What's interesting to me is how much my perspective isn't shared. This is a hot ticket, don't make any mistake about it. The show is selling well and people are excited. He's gotten rave reviews from other JCC's. Partially this is a demographic thing...his primary audience is my parents age, not mine. People who were in their 30's or 40's when Barney Miller was on the air. Not 7. People who are in their 70's now. Not 39.

Partially, it's an expectation thing. Going out to listen to a Jewish musician with a hall full of other Jews is more than sufficient for many Jews. It's not sufficient for me, for a Jewish music fest I expect more Jewish content. The JCC Stephen Gottlieb Music fest has plenty to offer for me, though, and I'll talk more about that starting tomorrow.

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