A Spotify Playlist by Rabbi Danny Nevins
Tell the Truth, by Jon Batiste
This song, from Batiste’s Grammy-winning album of the year, “We Are,” is an uptempo memory of his father’s instruction as he goes out into the world. “When you’re doing what you do, just tell the truth.” I incorporated this into my graduation speech this year, and celebrate its message of integrity and self-respect.
Loveology, by Regina Spektor
This pre-release song (and video
) has a hypnotic pace. Spektor came to America from the USSR in 1989–she is a proud Jew, a classically trained pianist and a composer of remarkable range. It expands the concept of humanistic education to encompass book learning as well as the training of our hearts. She sings about “loveology,” and instructs us, “Let’s study, class!”
Song for Peace, by Omer Avital
Israel has a robust jazz scene, with many musicians and composers of note. My favorite is the bassist Omer Avital, whom I have seen several times in NYC clubs. This song from his “Suite of the East” has a joyous theme that expands into dreamy reverie, with the piano, horns, drums and of course bass taking turns to express, distort and then restore the catchy melody. When I wonder whether we can ever know peace in this war-torn world, Avital’s song gives me hope.
Sunrise Niggun, by Deborah Saks Mintz
Recently ordained at JTS as a rabbi, Deborah Saks Mintz has been recording Jewish music for many years. This niggun (wordless melody) sets a calm and yet energizing mood for opening the heart to prayer. We played it at a Rosh Hodesh service last fall, and I encourage you to close your eyes and sing along.
Been Here Before, by Christone “Kingfish” Ingram
My favorite young blues artist, “Kingfish” has a deep voice and a soaring guitar. At the Apollo Theater I recently watched him climb up to a balcony box and raucously jam with his band back on stage. This song is much quieter and more mysterious–it asks how he came to be this way, and what he might have been in a prior life. One line of the song reminds me of a Midrash about the birth of Moses in Talmud Sotah. Kingfish makes me wonder–where have our souls been before, and why were we placed here in this world?
Sibat HaSibot, by Ishai Ribo
This Hebrew single by Ribo blends language from Jewish liturgy and modern Israeli slang to describe God as “the cause of all causes”. His message is expressed by Rabbi Akiva’s famous statement that “humans are beloved in that they are made in the divine image.” On Spotify you can view the lyrics –a good Hebrew challenge for the summer!
Eyes of the World, by The Grateful Dead
An old danceable favorite captures the relaxed spirit of summer, with no tasks or deadlines. In that lazy spirit we can find a “song of our own,” and realize that our experience is both unique and connected to all else. While Robert Hunter’s lyrics don’t always make complete sense, the interplay between the guitars of Garcia, Lesh and Weir help me relax and enjoy the warm days of summer.