Aaron’s Radio Show

Episode 61

My Three Songs with Howard Feinberg

 

Notes

Episode Notes

EPISODE 61 – My Three Songs with Howard Feinberg  Welcome, everyone, to Episode 61. This is the 51st in our series of episodes called My Three Songs where my guest chooses three memorable songs and we listen to the songs and talk about why they are meaningful to my guest. Howard Feinberg is a non-profit professional, born in New York, and now living in San Antonio, Texas. His whole life has involved performing and listening to music. We had a great time listening to and discussing three meaningful songs for him, including “Diamonds and Rust” by Joan Baez.

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Three Songs

  1. In The Mood – Glenn Miller (1939)
  2. Corner of the Sky – John Rubenstein (1972)
  3. Diamonds and Rust – Joan Baez (1975)

Aaron’s Radio Show has been licensed by ASCAP and BMI to include songs from their repertories in performances on this website.

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Transcript

This transcript was originally generated using artificial intelligence ("AI") software. It has been edited by a human being, but it may still contain some misspellings, lack necessary punctuation, or include other anomalies. We are regularly working to improve our transcripts!


Jake:

Coming to you almost live from Berkeley, California. It's Aaron's Radio Show with your host, Aaron Gobler.

Aaron Gobler:

Thanks, Jake. And welcome, everybody to Episode 61. Welcome to My Three Songs where I play three special songs chosen by my guest, and we talk about why they chose each song. Today, my guest is Howard Feinberg. Howard is a nonprofit professional, who is currently the Executive Director of the Hebrew Free Loan Association of San Antonio. Welcome to the show, Howard. How are you today?

Howard Feinberg:

Really terrific. And thank you for having me.

Aaron Gobler:

Oh, it's my pleasure. I'm so delighted that you took time to be on the show. Can you tell me briefly about what it is you do in your professional life, like what is the Hebrew Free Loan Association?

Howard Feinberg:

It's one of those quiet non-profit organizations that exists in many communities around North America and some internationally. It helps people who are having temporary financial setbacks, to access money at 0% interest and favorable repayment rates, so that it helps them get back on their feet. And we're talking about money for things like emergency medical procedures, or you know, sending a kid to camp, burial expenses, you name the emergency, we try to help people climb out of it with dignity and without having to try to find commercial money to make up the gap.

Aaron Gobler:

And this sounds like something like you said, it's something that kind of happens in the background. That's not an organization that is advertised per se. But it sounds like this is a an organization that functions in many cities across the country.

Howard Feinberg:

That's correct. And confidentiality is key. Very few people who need to access loans, even know the people who are involved with the organization. And we preserve with as much dignity as we can any individual who might find themselves temporarily challenged financially.

Aaron Gobler:

So Howard, we traded several emails. And I noticed in your signature, there is this statement, "there's no greater gift than empowering someone to help themself".

Howard Feinberg:

That's really the essence of what our organization does. But if you go back to Maimonides' Eight Steps of Charity, or tzedakah, as we call it, which actually means justice in Hebrew, there are different levels. And one of the most significant is to be able to help somebody in a material way that that person, first of all, doesn't know who provided the assistance, and you don't know who receives it. But in terms of an actual gift to a fellow human being, you don't want to necessarily make somebody feel subservient or less than equal. And, you know, it's not the issue of let me give you something that you therefore have to rely on and it's pure charity. Rather, we want to help enable you to take responsibility for yourself and to be able to manage the challenges of life. I do believe that there's nothing better we could do for a person or a family than to give them the ability to take responsibility and and manage whatever crises they're in with the appropriate level of support from community and friends.

Aaron Gobler:

And letting them keep their their humility and human-ness throughout it all.

Howard Feinberg:

Absolutely, yeah, absolutely.

Aaron Gobler:

Howard, thank you so much for sharing that. I think that it's just a wonderful thing that you and your organization, and these types of organizations do to support the people in our communities that are struggling the most and need a hand-up so that they can have a fuller life. So I certainly certainly appreciate that.

Howard Feinberg:

Exactly. It's it's not it's not giving somebody a handout. It's giving them a hand-up. Exactly. Love the metaphor.

Aaron Gobler:

So Howard, I believe you learned about the show through a friend of yours, Susan Kohn, who was my guest on episode 57. What inspired YOU to be a guest on the show?

Howard Feinberg:

Well, first of all, Susan and I know each other since our senior year at Stony Brook University on Long Island. She gave us a heads-up that she was going to be on the show to a bunch of friends and so I listened. And I was really enthralled, first of all, by the depth of knowledge that you obviously have, and in all manner of music and, and Susan is quite erudite and down-to-earth as well. She has a vast knowledge and is quite articulate, and you were able to bring it out. And I found the whole show to be quite enlivening. And I learned a lot about, frankly, the music that Susan chose. And I learned even more about my friend who I've known for a very long time.

Aaron Gobler:

Thank you for that feedback, Howard, because now I'm hearing ... you know, that you learned things about somebody who was a really good friend of yours ... that you didn't know, that's kind of rewarding that that you got to know Susan just a little bit better through her interview.

Howard Feinberg:

Absolutely. And I'm very thankful for it. But then that experience, and then the tag that you add, at the end, if you're interested, please give me a call. I just kind of was spontaneous. I said, you know, I could do that maybe and, and so I figured I would give it a try.

Aaron Gobler:

Well, I'm delighted that that tag at the very end, did resonate with you or strike a chord with you, because I often feel like I'm kind of saying that into the ether. And so I'm delighted to know that there was at least one person who heard that and said, Okay, now, I'm gonna go do this. So, so I do appreciate you jumping on it.

Howard Feinberg:

I'm sure it's a lot more than a few. But, you know, it's, it's truly a beautiful thing you're doing and one of those one offs that if you didn't have somebody involved, you'd never know about. And so we have to figure out how to get your message out there a little bit broader.

Aaron Gobler:

Well, I'd say Christine Lavin was incredibly important. I mean, she was on just a few episodes ago, but but she's brought me guests who then those guests have brought me guests and like, you're like a third generation. So Howard, before we get started with your song list, there's a question I ask every guest, and that's how does music fit into your life? And is it in the foreground or the background of each day?

Howard Feinberg:

Wow. Now, now the secrets will come out. As a young person, I did a lot of activities that most families try to give to their children, whether it's exposure to music, some sports, culture, arts, if possible, and I went to a really tremendous elementary school, which had a fantastic music program. Our parents, I have a sister who's a year older, both of us were encouraged and forget about encouraged, it was a requirement that we learned to play a musical instrument. And our father had this amazing singing voice. So there was clearly a musical ear in the family. Ellen, is my sister, and I both took music very seriously, it was a huge part of our childhood. And frankly, for me, and anything else that I did, music was the one thing that I kind of understood the language and I excelled in. And it became really a cornerstone of my life. I had some really incredible mentors. In addition to the encouragement of parents, we had music playing in the house a lot, when we were growing up different genres, whether it was things like the Limeliters, Americano, or, you know, I would borrow my uncle's swing band music and play that a bit. Ergo, one of my songs for today, it really was an opportunity that I, I never kind of focused on as, as anything special, just something that was really a part of my essence. And quite frankly, there isn't a time in my life where music not only wasn't important, but wasn't really a foundation stone, if you will, I mean, going through life with tunes in your head. Literally, somebody will say something to you, and it'll trigger a song, or a passage of Bach or Beethoven or some some jazz thing that you knew or a rock song or a folk song. My associa... or my memory cues are musical. It's it's just a language that I spoke to. And I was also a decent math student. So there's a lot of neuroscientists that kind of claim that music and math, can they kind of go hand-in-hand? Who knows? But I was lucky enough to have both in my elementary school. And in my junior high school teachers, who were of the highest quality in their music education and how to nurture young kids. When I got to junior high school, it was a school a little bit away from my neighborhood that offered a three-year junior high experience in two years. So I spent two years in his junior high school. And my music teacher was a gentleman by the name of Simeon Loring. He basically saw that I had some talent, and he pushed me to do certain things. This is a guy who said, you know, I got a guy and can play clarinet really good. But he also understands music. That kind of you know, theory and he can learn fast. So he said one day he says to me, he knew that I kind of played a little bit of guitar. So Mr. Loring says to me, I want you to teach the beginning guitar class tomorrow. And I said, I really have never taught. He said, You can do it, you know what you're doing. And you're pretty good on the on the instruments. So just give them the basics, show them the string, show them how to read a little music. So I started doing that. And a couple of months later, he says, You know, I want you to teach a beginning trumpet class. And I, I laughed, I said, that, okay, your guitar is one thing. But I'm a woodwind guy. I mean, I played every, every manner of clarinet that you can play from the smallest E flat to the biggest double bass clarinet, and everything in between. I blew a bugle, but you know, trumpet, three vowels, all this kind of stuff. So Mr. Loring says to me, you, you can teach trumpet because you have a good lip, and you know, music. So all you need to do is take this trumpet and book home, try to practice a little bit. And just remember, all you got to do is be one day ahead of your class. And that was his encouragement. And I did it. Not all that long afterwards, he really encouraged me to audition for the high school and music and art, were people with a certain aptitude and the fine arts and music, in particular, and go and really learn their crafts. And many go on to professions, either directly as performers, or high level artists, or people in the industry, or they just go on for life, but they've had an tremendously intense music experience. And one thing also, though, about music, which I realized, my love of music truly came initially from my parents, and, and their encouragement, and to the extent that my Dad would sing all the time in the house, and, you know, my mom would make sure that we, you know, ended up with cultural events where there was music. But I have three children in their 30s now, when they were growing up, we played a lot of the children's music songs and, and found different ways in which to encourage their interest in music. And of course, you know, in the background there, I'd be playing Elton John, The Who, Jethro Tull, Grateful Dead, you know, Joni Mitchell, whatever it was, it was on always, always on. And often in a car, you know, they would say that music stinks. You know, like young kids, they hate it. And then around about the time, the oldest two boys were about 12-and-a-half, and almost 11, my music CDs that I would be looking for I want to play X, whatever it is, I can't find it. And I look around, and then I go into their bedroom. And lo and behold, I got a stack of CDs that are sitting there all the music that they used to, you know, thumb their nose at, they had begun to, in very serious ways, ingest. One of the best moments of my life relating to music, but really around one of my children was when I had to take a business trip up to the northeast, not all that long before COVID hit. And my son asked me when I was going home, I told him I had a flight on a certain day. He says, Can you extend it a day? And I said, Well, you know, I could look at it, what's going on? He said, Well, how does the Rolling Stones sound to you? And lo and behold, they were playing at Giants Stadium. And that was one one of my favorite groups that I never had a chance to see. So he bought tickets, he would not allow me to pay for the ticket. And, you know, we went to Giants Stadium and just had the time of our lives. And it was such a wonderful event. For me, music is a central part of my life. Both the opportunity to experience playing music in a formal way and informally, but also of being exposed to so many different types of music, and appreciating it all.

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah. Well, it just seems like music has enriched your life so much. And I totally get you about like, the joy of having your children not only like listen to but then actually appreciate and then want to engage with you about music that you like. Thank you for all that history. Parents can tell their child, Hey, I want you to try this or the schools will say you know, in fourth grade, you've got to try this clarinet kind of thing. But then it really it's up to the teachers and people who are around them during the day in an instructional environment to notice that they've got some talent and to then kind of push them because the students not going to... rarely is going to say I'm really good at this trumpet, I want to do this. It's more like the teacher saying you are good at that trumpet and I want you to do it, right? And so what would it be without these teachers, pushing the students or finding students that have a good basis, and then really nudging them in that direction? So shout-out to the teachers there.

Howard Feinberg:

Absolutely.

Aaron Gobler:

So Howard, let's get to your song list. The songs you chose were "In the Mood" by Glenn Miller from 1939. "Corner of the Sky" by John Rubinstein from 1972. And "Diamonds and Rust" by Joan Baez from 1975. Howard, I'm eager for us to listen to your songs together and to discuss the significance of each song to you. So let's jump into your first song "In the Mood" by Glenn Miller.

Aaron Gobler.:

Howard, for me, Glenn Miller's music epitomizes the big band sound. And this is probably the first big band song I was aware of as a child. So what inspired you to include this song on your list?

Howard Feinberg:

That's very funny, you should say that, because I could tell you exactly the same thing. It's I listened to so much, but that opening refrain, with the saxes coming up first slow and then and I should say low and then building up. (Mimicking horns) That that is a signature of this song. But of that era, because it leads into what I consider one of the coolest swing songs that ever came out of the era. And and, you know, I could close my eyes. And I could imagine and I picked it as a film someplace where you got Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney doing a dance that is one of their, you know, shows that they put on, it's that kind of energy, the excitement, the you know, the build-up and the horns come in? And yes, it is, it is one of those, if you are at all in touch with the music of the era, and again, it's, you know, you got to remember what was happening there, Tommy Dorsey had all these different people who were playing with, I guess, old instruments, but new sound, and they were coming up with ways to be innovative and creative, and to create an energy. And to me that whole energy was, in a lot of ways, what was happening socially in the country. And, and frankly, if you think about the times between World War I, World War II, to the Depression, and all this kind of stuff, what was it that if anything kept people going was, you know, helping each other in the culture and having some way to kind of just decompress, and music like that, I think provided in a lot of ways the background for people to take a deep breath and smile again, you know, it was, it was I could define it so many ways. And, you know, think about it also, given the time. It was a lot of these musicians of that era that did a lot of the USO trips to visit troops and spend time, you know, entertaining people that were defending our democracy, and frankly, the world overseas. And the tragedy for Glenn Miller was that on one of those such trips, he perished over the English Channel, never to be found again. You know, it was in service to the country, he had joined the military, and he had gone into the entertainment side and was entertaining troops. It was really so sad. And I and my uncles who were, you know, clearly, you know, they lived through all that. They remembered it. They told me the story, because as I was falling in love with the music, and I said, Where can I hear him? And he said, unfortunately, you can't, not live, but listen to the records. It's just as good. But it sent me on a course because I, I, I loved that energy. And that's where I got the, I guess, the desire to not just go to the orchestra practice in elementary school, but I come in the room a little earlier, maybe two or three, there was a guy who was an amazing piano player. And so, you know, a few of us were just, you know, whatever the song was, you know, we grabbed something and just stopped playing. And you know, I wasn't particularly great at improvising at that age. But you know, the guy had a piano was so, boy, did we have fun, and then then the teacher would walk in and say, Okay, time to get serious. You know? That was the kind of stuff that appealed to us.

Aaron Gobler:

Mm-mmm. So Howard the next song on your list is "Corner of the Sky" by Jon Rubinstein. And that's from the show "Pippin". So let's give that a listen, and we'll talk about it on the other side.

Aaron Gobler.:

Howard, I'd heard of the show "Pippin", but I really didn't know much about it until exploring it this week. And apparently, there's a song in the show called "Prayer for a Duck". Now, I think I need to sit down and listen to the whole soundtrack. So like, what made you choose this particular tune

Howard Feinberg:

The song basically is the cornerstone, the beginning of a saga of Pippin, the son of Charlemagne, and he is the son that wasn't the warrior like his father. He was the cultured kind of wayward, I got to go out and find myself kind of guy and the adventures of him as he tries to impress his father that yeah, he could become a warrior. It's one to include in your list? of those songs that absolutely for me, at the time, I heard it the first time it kind of captured where I was in life. And, you know, like I say, music is my life. And I could either say, there was something in my life that's defined by music or music can define my life, and who knows which it is. But I saw that show in summer of 1975. It was before right before my senior year of college, and I kind of wasn't 100% sure what the future was gonna hold. I had all sorts of ideas and was playing with would I go to social work school, (unintelligible) school, would I keep in the anthropology program, I applied to the Ph.D. program, I got in, should I go? You know, and all this crazy stuff going on in my head and there I hear Pippin, who's trying to figure out what he's doing, he's looking for meaning he's gonna go out there and try

Aaron Gobler:

I said this before in the show that, that we often to find it. have this thought in our mind that we are the only ones who are experiencing something and that when we see in, in various types of art, usually like in a poem, or in a song, someone expressing the same situation, the same challenges, the same curiosities and such, it can make a real impression. In this case, it sounds like you know, like you were saying, Your life was kind of in this weird, like quasi-state, and you're not sure what's going on. And so that the song, and the show kind of really resonated with you.

Howard Feinberg:

Totally, often art in all of its forms and performing arts, there are opportunities that humanize experiences and universalize them. Like you just said, in a sense, it's very clear that when a show like this that has such an impact, you wonder why the longevity, why certain shows continue to be remade, done at college campuses or in community theater. And this is one that you'll see often. And I think it's because it at any age, it can resonate with the audience, people in the audience, and they can see pieces of themselves while they're being very seriously and enjoyably entertained. It's truly a wonderful musical.

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah, I think you hit the nail on the head with this with shows like "Pippin", and like you're saying it's timeless. The musicality of it may be a little dated here or there. But but the the purpose of the show, the thread of it is still is still very, still timeless. So Howard, let's listen to your last song "Diamonds and Rust" by Joan Baez.

Aaron Gobler.:

Howard, is it true this song is about Bob Dylan? You know, I hadn't heard this song before. But I got busy learning more about it from Wikipedia this week. I'm eager to know what inspired you to include this song on your list.

Howard Feinberg:

So the first question you asked was, was it

Aaron Gobler:

From what I gathered from what you said then about Dylan? And you know, if you do the research, like you said, you did, you'll see that the references and and all within the song could apply to nobody else but Dylan, and the relationship that they had had about a decade before the song was written. But why did I choose this? Well, first of all, think about the times. If you grew up in the late 60s to the mid 70s, really coming of age and you're in college in the listening to just this particular genre or early 70s. And you get you get a sense of what's happening in the world through the folk music and the protest songs and the social justice songs and, and music was a vehicle for expressing deep and passionate emotions, about society about the state of the world and, and not the least of which were the singer songwriters of the 60s and 70s, who created this unbelievable repertoire of music that stands the test of time. And you could contemporary, you know, Dylan, Baez, and The Band, etc, that really you can go back to so many of those songs, and literally close your eyes and relive history through the music in a lot of ways. When I saw the Rolling Thunder Revue, which some of your listeners may not know, was a sort of a traveling group, a troubadours that Dylan had basically put together. People liked The Band, and I think Joni Mitchell popped in and out of it. Clearly, Joan Baez was in and out, Robbie Robertson from The Band. Dylan, of course, was the centerpiece. And I had the pleasure of seeing him seeing the Rolling Thunder Revue in Brandeis University when my sister was in college, lyrically, they've captured so much of what was going on, I so our senior year in their gymnasium, and boy, was that a wonderful show, but it was it was the era that we were growing up in, you know, we live through the end of the Vietnam War in our formative years, we really saw the ugliness of what politics could be, and the Watergate scandal and how that broke and how it forced the president to resign and all that followed subsequently. So the music of the era, again, you know, like, like anything it touches very deep and specific songs can bring that out. So I looked at, and I think most people would admit that the while there are so many major mean, even thinking about like Creedence Clearwater and others, influences on music in general in those days, The Beatles, obviously The Stones, James Taylor and sister Kate Taylor, and you know, Joan Baez, Emmylou Harris, you know, you go up and down the list, Carole King, these people spoke to your hearts, they spoke about social situation, they spoke politics, they talked about psychosocial issues in on a personal level. And they they dealt in reality. And in this song, in particular, it joined both the themes, both in terms of what music represented or can represent, but also the deeply personal interaction between two of my favorite artists of the day, I absolutely adored Joan Baez, both for the music she covered right, that they that they input into song, some really intense on other people's repertoires and her own and her music that was copied still by others. And of course, Dylan who just defied... he defies definition, electric, acoustic, initial Dylan, later days collaborations with so many different... Dylan & the Dead, Dylan and the Band, Dylan, just and and so their personal interaction. And then again, I went to high school in Manhattan, I grew up in New York City, Greenwich Village, for many years was my place to play. You know, Greenwich Village, Chinatown, Little Italy. Those were the neighborhoods that I spent an awful lot of time and in my, you know, later High experiences that were going on, in this particular time, you School and throughout my college and early young adulthood before I left New York. So when she talks about looking out of that window in the Washington Square, I'm right there. I see the window. I know the house. You know, it's I know, I know. At one point in time, I actually knew the apartment that they lived in the apartment building, you know, and those kinds of things. So it's, it's visceral, it brings me back to a time again, in formative years. know, 60s into the 70s.

Howard Feinberg:

Yeah, you know, when when I had to try and figure out which songs to choose to propose to you that might go on an interview. I mean, there's just so many. I mean, think about the "Four Dead in Ohio", Crosby, Stills and Nash. Right? Kent State I mean, is Woodstock. You know, there's just so much that happened in the late 60s through the 70s, early-mid 70s. Music tells a story, and in certain respects music helped change it.

Aaron Gobler:

That's yeah. Yeah, that can be a whole other conversation. Yeah, yeah. Well, well, thank you for your observations. And and I actually hadn't considered really, that not too many generations or eras have been documented in the same way through through lyrics, like, you know, mid 60s to the mid 70s. So rich in social activism. Yeah, that's it's a very interesting, like history book, through song during that particular era.

Howard Feinberg:

And you think about civil rights, and the songs that came from the movement. And yet the songs can be like what people were actually experiencing as much as it exposed and spoke to the heart. It also showed how far we needed to come in order to make our world a little bit better place. And we're still working hard at that. And I don't think that's going to ever stop.

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah. Now, Howard, I know you wanted to make a shout-out to a particular social support group for blues musicians.

Howard Feinberg:

So after Hurricane Katrina, there was several groups that coalesced around the group of musicians and other artists that were displaced along in New Orleans itself. And along the Mississippi Gulf Coast. And several organizations, there was a blues venue in New Orleans called Tipitina's that set up a foundation. But I have a very close colleague and friend named Barbara Hammerman and this is a shout-out to Barbara, who was part of this foundation that helped provide social services, legal advice, medical care for blues traveling musicians, when they were in remote locations, and they didn't have any kind of coverage. If they had an emergency, they needed a dentist, they did whatever. That kind of blossomed into a love and a passion that her daughter, first as a photographer of music, and then really as a music promoter created an organization called United by Music North America. It's based in the Pacific Northwest. And they, amongst other things, promote local and regional and some national blues artists, some that are early in their career and others that are real established. And they promote concerts, they also deal with social service issues at a certain level. Unlike many others, it's done without any fanfare, other than the fact that it's a celebration of music. And if you ever get a chance to see them online or at any of their venues when they're playing on the East Coast, when they they're at a blues festival on the East Coast or in the Pacific Northwest. Well worth checking into, again, that's run by Amanda Gresham. And her mom Barbara Hammerman, very much a pivotal part of that. And, and father, Raymond Levine, really great people, and great supporters of me as well.

Aaron Gobler:

Thank you for sharing that. It's really rewarding to hear about support networks, and in any kind of situation, just knowing that people have your back. Well, I want to thank you, Howard, I had a great time talking with you and learned some stuff today, experienced some songs I hadn't heard, and took some walks down memory lane. You know, I hope you enjoyed yourself too.

Howard Feinberg:

Well, Aaron, first of all, I was a little intimidated as the interview approached. Just because I truly didn't know if I could even articulate some of the some of the feeling and passion behind the choices I made and why and I hope that this served to be a useful interview for others who hear it and who might want to check out the music as a result. And I thank you again for the opportunity.

Aaron Gobler:

And thank you for taking the time to put the list together. I know it's difficult sometimes to pick three songs, and I certainly appreciate you curating that list and providing it to me and again, taking the time today to talk. I do want to say to my listeners. If you want to be part of the show. Start by going to our website Aaron's Radio dot show and clicking on to My Three Songs button on the homepage. You can also sign up for the mailing list so you'll know immediately when a new episode is available. You can also find Aaron's Radio Show on your favorite podcast service, but the podcast episodes only include interviews and no licensed music. So until next time, keep your ears and mind open and let more music into your world.

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