Flaming Red Rabbi
:: Simple Child Loved (w_fade) ::
:: Flying On The Ground (w_fade) ::
:: Lullaby ::
I bought this record as kind of a joke, really. An obvious relic of the anything goes 60s, when even a 69 year old Rabbi could be hip. Look. There he is singing and shaking hands with John Lennon on the back cover. He's singing songs by the likes of Leonard Cohen, Neil Young, Dylan and the brothers Gibb. What gives?
By 1969, Rabbi Abraham Feinberg had a reputation as a peace activist. He'd been to North Vietnam a couple of years earlier and befriended Ho Chi Minh, which earned him the nick name Flaming Red Rabbi. But his penchant for activism went back to the rise of Nazism in the early 1930s, when Feinberg gave up a successful singing career (with his own New York radio show) to follow his beloved religion and fight fascism.
One day nearly 40 years later, he stopped in to the Queen Elizabeth Hotel in Montreal to meet Ono and Lennon, having heard they were staging a "bed-in for peace". Feinberg wanted to see for himself if this staged event was merely a publicity ploy, or the real thing. After meeting the couple, he apparently felt it was the latter, and all three seemed to get along famously.
A couple of years ago, the estate of Beatles Press Officer Derek Taylor offered a piece of hotel stationary for auction. On it were Lennon's scribbled notes including the phrase, "All we are saying, is give peace a chance", and the phone number for Rabbi Feinberg. As the story goes, during the course of their conversations, the Rabbi said something like, "We have to find a way to give peace a chance", thus inspiring Lennon. Apparently impressed with his singing voice, Lennon invited the Rabbi to attend the recording sessions for the song in the same hotel room a few days later. Originally, the record was to be credited to "John Lennon and The Flaming Red Rabbi", but as word of the session got out, the room became filled with people happily joining in on the sing along choruses.
Luckily, Rabbi Feinberg (or Tony, as he was known to family and friends) was inspired enough to make this slightly weird album. What at first looks like a record by an old man riding the coattails of a much younger, hipper public figure turns out to be a decent aural artifact from a bygone era.
With the release of the film, "The U.S. vs John Lennon" and the recognition that we could use a John Lennon in these times, this record makes me wish we had a Rabbi Feinberg too.