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Last fall, the people at Tablet asked if I’d be willing to interview my friend Kooper: just put a recorder between us and talk. A couple of months later, Al and I sat in his living room and switched on the little machine and talked about growing up Jewish in black churches, meeting Elvis, playing on “Like a Rolling Stone” with Bob Dylan, and hearing Mike Bloomfield play for the first time. With a bit of editing, this is part of what we said. It’s always a treat to see him and his wife Susan in situ: It means a fine supper, some wonderful chat, and listening to all sorts of stuff from his suitably enormous music collection. If you keep your ears and eyes open, you might catch word of Al performing, and he always appears in February at his annual birthday bash at B.B. King’s near Times Square. He’s lost not a step. Many more of his stories appear in his acclaimed book, Backstage Passes and Backstabbing Bastards, which is still very much in print. And, since you’re reading this on the Internet, go and check out his exceptional music blog, “New Music for Old People.” For now, though, read him getting right to the point at hand. *** Al Kooper: Culturally, one of the things I don’t like about the Jewish religion is that you can’t play instruments in temple as part of the service, like you can in Baptist places. So, I have attended more services in black Baptists churches than in temple. Why can’t they put instruments into temples? It would increase attendance. All you got is some guy blowing the shofar. Another thing was, at both my parents’ funerals the rabbi didn’t allow me to play the organ, and I wanted to play the organ. However, when my father-in-law died, they let me. Continue reading.
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