Lyric of the Week: HOLY CITY BLUES
Updated: Jan 14
Walked through the Old City just the other night
Heard a voice shouting “Do You See The Light!
The Wall’s glowing brightly with the light of the time
You guys are going crazy but hey that ain’t no crime
See the light boy, now hear that chime
He’s coming, man, he’s coming, and the time’s just right!”
Went down to the Wall just to see what he was saying
Looked down from the Quarter, people singing, people praying
Sneezes and sleazes, all gathered round and round
The black hats and the sroogies singing till they got unwound
Taking off their shoes ‘cause they stand on holy ground
This is the real thing now, and there ain’t no more delaying
Our accusers are silenced and our enemies are scattered
Their evil lies exposed and their conspiracies shattered
The aggressors lie buried while the possessors stand
True peace reigning throughout all of the land
With the outstretched arm and the mighty hand
Of the One Who fights for us, nothing else matters
Crowds pour out of the buildings into the city streets
Ready for the chosen one that they’re about to meet
This is no false alarm, this is the real thing
Who it is doesn’t matter as much as the era that he brings
See the people dance now, hear them all sing
It isn’t summer yet but you can feel the rising heat
The exultation swells as the man comes into view
The crowd parts like the Red Sea to let him come through
I’m about to catch a glimpse but the end is abrupt
This vision is divine, yet who dares interrupt?!
Three bangs on the door and a voice yelling “Get up, man, get up!”
And so I awake and face another day of Holy City Blues.
©2017 The Hesh Inc.
This is a true story: When I was a senior in high school, attending a yeshiva in Jerusalem, I had a dream that the Messiah arrived. The dream pretty much went the way the scenes are described ... I was walking through Jerusalem, minding my own business, when all of a sudden it dawns on me and everybody that Moshiach is here, and he is about to make his grand appearance. Everybody pours out from all the buildings and crowds into the streets to catch a first glimpse of the newly arrived savior, and just as I see one of the legs of his white donkey kick into view, my dorm counselor woke me up. "Dammit!" I yelled at my dorm counselor, still half groggy from being shaken out of REM sleep. "I was about to see who Moshiach is!" He had a good laugh at that.
The idea for the song came about a year before that, when I was a junior, newly arrived at this school in the city from my old dump in the boondocks. It was a school catering to English-speaking students in Israel, either in the country for the academic year with their families, or full-time residents who could not cut it in the Israeli educational system (like me). I have to admit that there was a lot of religious brainwashing going on there - par for the course in yeshiva high schools - and many of us were afire with a messianic fervor, anticipating his arrival at any minute. I had just begun writing songs a couple of years earlier, with simple blues-influenced rock'n'roll ditties ... but I didn't just want to write about boy-meets-girl and all that stuff ... I wanted to be spiritual.
My high school was affiliated with one of the better-known schools for adult baalei teshuvah, heretofore secular or otherwise non-Orthodox Jews who had returned to a more traditional practice of Judaism. Amongst the students and staff were a smattering of musicians and former hippies, and they too brought this spiritual vibe to the scene.
And so, under the influence of all this religious-Zionist messianism, ex-hippie enlightenment, and the rhythm-and-blues that I was absorbing at the time (thanks to repeated viewings of The Blues Brothers movie and seeking out records by the artists on its soundtrack), I wanted to write a blues song about meeting the Messiah in Jerusalem. The 1-4-5, 12-bar blues came easily enough, along with early versions of the first two verses. The rest of the lyrics came sometime in the 1990s when I set out to finish the song I had started in high school ... complete with the plot twist at the end.
My first band, REALITY SHOCK, diddled around with an early version of this song but we never followed up on it. Nothing really became of it afterward beyond my completion of the lyrics, except that the first two lines of the first verse got filtered through a more grown-up-me viewpoint and landed in the third verse of my song "This Is The Time," last track of my 2007 release, Soul In Exile 2: Jersey Shore Baby.