Sunday, January 29, 2012

Debbie Friedman: The Early Years

Anyone wishing to see what I looked like at age 15 or 16 (pre-Jewfro) need merely click on my Slideshow (top right). But, sadly, photos of Debbie from early in her musical career are rare. To paraphrase the famous quote attributed to Leonard Bernstein's father, "Who knew she was going to turn out to be Debbie Friedman?"

Elsewhere on this blog are photos I took of Debbie in the summer of 1970 at Kutz Camp. But I recently came across two photos that help us visualize an earlier chapter of Debbie's life. While attending high school in St. Paul, MN she was a Jewish music song-leader for NoFTY (Northern Federation of Temple Youth), where she led song sessions at youth group events.

The black and white photo, from 1968 (Debbie was 17) is courtesy of Debbie's sister Cheryl, and may have been taken at the Olin Sang Ruby camp in Wisconsin. Is she talking to a group? Teaching a song? It looks as if she is adjusting the fingerpicks on her right hand. She always played with picks and got an enormous sound from her Martin 12-string. That's the guitar she was using when I met her at Kutz Camp in 1969 and that she played for many years.

The color photo, taken in the Spring of 1969 at a synagogue in the Twin Cities by Jonathan Kane (and posted with his kind permission) shows a more confident song-leader (the same Beatle haircut but without glasses) singing and strumming a visually stunning sunburst guitar (looks like an Italian made Eko 12-string, but I don't know if it was hers.) Spring comes late to the North Country, so she's wearing a sweater, frayed at the elbow, a reminder of her modest beginnings.

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