21 02 2007

By Jill Ettinger

Technically both of my parents are Jewish. Or as I like to call it, 7-11 Jews (sorry Mom!). Tradition and celebrations had to be convenient to be up for consideration. And even then doing them quickly was an absolute. But looking back I realize the real religion in my house was actually Bob Dylan. My father would preach his gospel daily, teaching us poetic lyric after lyric, unraveling the deep meanings too complex for a child’s mind, schooling us on the phases of the legend’s career from early folk to  Country Bob to his born-again days and of course, everything in between. Every five year-old girl’s favorite song is “Tangled up in Blue,” right?

Then, as to be expected, pop music fell into my lap. MTV had birthed itself into my consciousness, and from the moment I first laid eyes on the boys of Duran Duran, Zimmy’s charm began to wane. I remember my father’s disappointment. He had raised me better. And when I fell in love with David Lee Roth (I believe my father insisted he was a no-talent piece of trash….ah, the foresight), all bets were off. It was full on war.

In one of our “other” religious outings (to a holiday festival at the Jewish Community Center) I won some carnival game of sorts. The prize booth displayed the usual suspects: stuffed creatures, plastic toys, puzzles, and up on the top shelf, a stack of vinyl records. Oooh…My dad had quite a record collection and I had a few of my own: Free to be You and Me, the Cinderella soundtrack, Kermit’s Greatest Hits, The Commodores.  But the new wave of pop music was always unattainable. My allowance fed my Tropical Punch Now & Later addiction, leaving little else affordable, save more inexpensive candy. I remember looking around to make sure no parent could veto my choice, and pointed to Ghost in the Machine. I don’t even think I knew who The Police were, but the cover was an intriguing, almost frightening, taboo. I had to have it.

Something in the simplicity of the trio’s sound was undeniable for me, the familiarity to my rock upbringing echoed through the experience. Lost in the sound of Sting’s crisp and chilling voice, I began to contemplate the possibility of many different beliefs finding a way to work – if not in this big old world, at least in my family.

The New Wave inflammation subsided and I began to appreciate many styles of music. It took me years to come back to Dylan though, to find my own understanding and appreciation for the artist. Sting and company however have never left my side. Since the first time I heard them, they’ve been part of the soundtrack in ways I could never have imagined. When Synchronicity dropped, I think I was in the 5th grade. I had the vinyl and cassette so not to miss a listening opportunity. At that point in my life, there just simply hadn’t been a better record made. Ever.

Over the years, I’ve noticed the similarities in my life to Sting’s. Yoga, for one; organic another. World music yet one more. A clear demonstration of the power of conscious music transforming not only the musician, but listener as well. Last May I was invited to a party at the new Jivamukti Yoga Studio in Union Square. Only a few hundred people were there, and among them, Sting. He performed with Krishna Das, chanting mantras just 10 feet from me.  As I stood there, totally star struck,  feeling very much like the moment when his record called to me from the top shelf of the prize booth. It had come full circle.

It’s been a long time coming, and well worth the wait as The Police have finally reunited. Here’s their performance at the Grammy’s earlier this month. “Roxanne” was always one of my favorites, and here the boys sound better than ever. It shows all that’s great about taking time to integrate an experience and come back to it with renewed enthusiasm.




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