That Summer Feeling

Jonathan Richman, modern lover

As he grinned out over the small crowd, I wondered how his act would translate to our group, whose tastes ran the gamut from indie rock to Punjabi, the Beatles to Bali. My concerns were immediately quelled, for as Jonathan once sang, "If the music's gonna move me, folks, it's gotta be action-packed." And so it was: He opened with "You Can't Talk to the Dude," hip-thrusting and grinning his way through the stops and starts and wisecracks, his charisma blowing away the sound of the latte machine and cash register. Our table was floored.

I watched his eyes the entire show, and he returned my gaze from time to time, almost as if to acknowledge that we were in on the same jokes. He did "19 in Naples," "Everyday Clothes," "Pablo Picasso," "Back in Your Life," and one about being infatuated with a beautiful woman in a beautiful dress, the verses of which he sang in Spanish, Italian, English, French, and Hebrew, which drew appreciative howls and claps from our little UN enclave. After exactly one hour, he was done.

Everybody wanted to meet him. Not even close to being star-struck, our world-weary citizens descended on him at his post-gig CD-signing table. Armando and Maria Jose spoke to him in Spanish. Arieh and Linda asked him if he'd heard the Israeli guitarist David Broza, whose name he wrote down on a piece of paper. Alberto spoke to him in Italian, and in that moment the two fiftysomethings looked like long-lost brothers. I'm not very good at the backstage thing, but on my way out I placed my hand on his back and said, "Thanks, Jonathan."

James O'Brien

A few of us walked out into the warm winter night and looked up at the California stars. Arieh, who started his day talking on San Francisco public radio about the elections in Israel and the war in the Mideast and ended it by clapping along to Jonathan doing "I Was Dancing in the Lesbian Bar," looked up at the sky and said, "God, I'm going to miss this."

I can still see his face, glowing and living out poet Sidney Lanier's line about music being "love in search of a word." If the guy responsible for it doesn't know what love is by now, somebody should talk to the dude.

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