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Mathis Mania

February 4, 2011

images.jpegThe Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco was packed to the knishes for an event celebrating the life of Johnny Mathis last night.

The singer was on top form, looking spry at 75 and full of gentle tales of his youth in San Francisco.

I loved the event most for the tidbits I learned from Mathis about the Fillmore district in the 40s and 50s and the partially-lost art (as he sees it) of singing a great love song. Singers today don't put enough emphasis on the lyrics, Mathis says, and they over-emote instead of letting the music speak for itself.

But I wish we could have heard more of Mathis' music beyond the abrupt ten seconds of his version of "Kol Nidre" that was piped over the speakers. It would have seemed less rude to play at least that one three minute song in its entirety. But apparently everyone was too busy gushing over the guest of honor to spare the time to listen to any of his music collectively.

Time could easily have been spared however: I, for one, could have done without the inane superfluities of the trio of gormless panelists (the vinyl-sniffing core members of The Idelsohn Society, a organization geared towards the preservation of long lost Jewish music) who all came across like characters in a Nick Hornby novel.

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