The Arty Semite

Carole King Charms Massachusetts

By Susie Davidson

Susie Davidson

In a reverse case of “Where you lead, I will follow,” a verse from one of Carole King’s countless hit songs, Bostonians trailed the iconic Brooklyn-born songstress around their state last month.

On May 11, along with Willie Nelson and Annie Lennox, King received an honorary degree from Berklee College of Music. That Friday, she spoke about her memoir “A Natural Woman” at Porter Square Books in Cambridge. She took a detour to Washington, D.C. for a May 22 White House ceremony, where she received the Library of Congress’ annual Gershwin Prize for Popular Song and where President Obama called King, the first female recipient of the award, “a living legend.” Then she was back in Beantown, on the bill of megastars performing in the May 30 “Boston Strong” benefit concert for the Marathon bombing victims.

King could rest right there on her laurels, but the longtime environmental activist and politically active citizen is neither a secluded celebrity nor a passive observer. During May she also made several campaign appearances on behalf of Democratic U.S. Senate candidate and Massachusetts Congressman Ed Markey, at venues like Zaftig’s Delicatessen in Brookline, private homes in Lexington and Wellesley, The Center for Arts at the Armory in Somerville, and Lyndell’s Bakery in Cambridge.

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Monday Music: A Little Rock, a Lot of Soul

By Susie Davidson

Cory Despres

She’s seen and done it all, and it wasn’t always pretty. Robin Lane endured a forsaken childhood during the Hollywood heyday, lived and performed with the giants of 1960s West Coast psychedelia, and slashed and burned through the punk rock era.

Now, Lane is lending her talents to help others overcome the life traumas she knows too well. Her foundation, Songbird Sings, extends musical and psychological healing to survivors of domestic violence, war, incarceration, post-traumatic stress disorder and childhood abuse.

On December 3, Lane will be performing at The Real School of Music in Burlington, Mass., with proceeds going to Songbird Sings. Lane will also appear at the Brooklyn Coffee and Tea House in Providence, R.I., on December 16, and will be part of the January 14 Hot Stove Cool Music concert in Boston, produced by Theo and Paul Epstein’s Foundation To Be Named Later.

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Composer Brings Jazz Age to Washington Ballet

By Susie Davidson

Elizabeth Gaither and Jared Nelson in ‘The Great Gatsby.’ Photo by Steve Vaccariello.

F. Scott Fitzgerald — who dubbed the 1920s “the Jazz Age” — would surely approve.

This week, jazz clarinetist and composer Billy Novick and his band, the Blue Syncopators, will play Novick’s score for The Washington Ballet’s production of “The Great Gatsby” at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. The ballet premiered in 2010 with seven sold-out shows.

Novick’s music can be heard in hundreds of commercials, film and television soundtracks, and he’s played jazz and rock with greats such as David Bromberg, Martha and the Vandellas, and J. Geils. He also wrote the soundtrack to a 2002 film on Holocaust artist Samuel Bak. But this gig’s got him grinning.

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First Jewish Collection for a 'Small Press Legend'

By Susie Davidson

Uprooted at age 9, abandoned into poverty, targeted by anti-Semitism, exposed to the horrors of World War II and finally confined to a wheelchair, Ed Galing’s life has been beset by ongoing difficulties. Yet he has never lacked dedication, perseverance, or imagination, in art or in life. In eloquently written work that defies his hardscrabble Lower East Side and South Philadelphia origins, Galing has chronicled his remarkable journey in poetry, cartooning, storytelling and journalism.

At 94, the harmonica-playing poet laureate of Hatboro, Pennsylvania has an ultimate wish. Although he has received numerous literary awards (including two Pushcart nominations), citations from the Pennsylvania House of Representatives and Senate, and has written over 70 chapbooks, he has long dreamed of seeing his Jewish poetry in a published collection. That wish was granted in February with “Pushcarts and Peddlers” from Poetica Publishing Company, an offshoot of the Judaica-themed Poetica Magazine.

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Psychiatry, Poetry and the Bible

By Susie Davidson

Interpreters of Genesis 22:1-19, which details Abraham’s near sacrifice of his only son on Mount Moriah, usually focus on the awesome loyalty and faith of our forefather. But Isaac’s role also invites analysis.

Psychiatrist and poet Freddy Frankel sees Isaac as a compassionate, perhaps older man who deems his father’s dilemma quite possibly unsound, yet empathetically calls him “my pious executioner.”

“In my conception, Isaac even suspected that his father perhaps heard voices in his head,” Frankel explained from his home in Newton, Mass.

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Friday Film: Phil Ochs Finally Gets His Biopic

By Susie Davidson

Last month, fans of 1960s singer-songwriter Phil Ochs got some long-delayed gratification when the film “Phil Ochs: There But For Fortune,” directed by Kenneth Bowser, opened in limited release at New York’s IFC Center. With reviews ranging from good to excellent, the movie is now scheduled for runs at 57 theaters nationwide. Aficionados are optimistic that the enigmatic topical singer will finally get the recognition he craved.

Courtesy First Run Features

Ochs’s legions of hardcore devotees have long weathered rumors of impending biopics. Among the more enduring was a purported movie starring Sean Penn, who expressed his desire to play the singer-songwriter in his liner notes for “A Toast to Those Who Are Gone,” a 1986 compilation of early-to-mid ‘60s Ochs recordings.

Other teasers included the early-‘80s film “Chords of Fame,” directed by Michael Korelenko and starring Bill Burnett as Ochs, which aired at festivals and on Britain’s Channel 4, but never saw official release. Marc Eliot, who penned the 1978 Ochs biography “Death of a Rebel” produced another unreleased film, “The Farewell Performance of Phil Ochs.” Ochs clips are out there, and many appear in Bowser’s film. But an official, full-length feature movie has never panned out — until now.

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Friday Film: Moe Howard, an Honorable Stooge

By Susie Davidson

Getty Images

Last August, during President Obama’s visit to Martha’s Vineyard, a protest erupted over a T-shirt being sold at the SunStations shop in Oak Bluffs that portrayed Obama as Moe, Vice President Joe Biden as Larry, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi as Curly. The caption read: “The REAL Stooges.”

The storeowner said no malice was intended, and pointed to other shirts in the shop that praise the President. For us, however, there was no need to explain, as we see the comparison as complimentary. After all, the Three Stooges, who are being honored on December 13 at the Three Stooges Film Festival in Albany, as well as in a forthcoming Three Stooges Movie, were pioneering geniuses of comedy.

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