Friday, August 8, 2008

Exodus for Everyone

What does it say about us that we care less about the subject of Otto Preminger’s film about the founding of the State of Israel (which starred Paul Newman and was based on Leon Uris’ novel), and more about how everyone from Richard Clayderman to Edith Piaf and Count Basie thought it wise to take a crack at Ernest Gold’s rousing, chest-swelling main theme from the film’s score? Gold fled Vienna in 1938 and started making his mark as a film composer in Hollywood in the mid-forties. His Exodus theme was a huge, Oscar-winning hit in 1960, the perfect launch of a decade when Jews became synonymous with America– as Leslie Fiedler once put it, “when Zion became Main Street.” So much so that when it was time to add lyrics to “Exodus” the task fell to Daniel Boone’s great-great-grandson Pat. “This land is mine,” Boone wrote of Israel a year before the southern Church elder recorded his Reads From The Holy Bible LP, “God gave this land to me.” In 1969, Jimmy Scott (with Junior Mance on piano and Ron Carter on bass) did one of the most beautiful takes on the Gold/Boone version that was as much dirge as patriotic celebration, and four years earlier, the original Gold instrumental got one of its best workouts from Nuyorican conguero Ray Barretto on his Viva Watusi LP (Barretto had already worked the Jewish angle as a member of Juan Calle and His Latin Lantzmen). The other history of Israel: from Vienna to the Watusi via Pat Boone.


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