Looking back at those days, some thirty years ago in Jerusalem, we were wide open and unsophisticated, but we didn’t know it at the time. The sixties were long behind us, and it seemed at the time as if life had settled down, and folks had gotten serious. But it was still pretty easy to find music somewhere on a week night, and on a Saturday night it was a sure thing. There were a number of bars that were happy to host a performance. You’d see locals and tourists, and expatriates from all over the world who’d find their way here for one reason or another.
You could see them in the park on a sunny winter day, or in the spring and summer… making music for themselves till they got an audience, and then turning an accidental meeting into a full performance. And there were some very talented people who worked a day job, but came out at night to play. Often the venue was lit by dim lamps or candles because the place itself was lacking anything in the way of decoration, and if it was well lit, we’d have been distracted by the dusty shelves, the deteriorated furniture, or the garish paint peeling off the walls.
But we didn’t notice all of that. We’d come without expectations, and reveled in the music. Most of us knew one another, by sight if not by name, and we’d have a good time, and a few drinks as the evening grew long. We loved the performers without there having to play a role for us… and if someone started accompanying the musicians while sitting at a table in the bar, he was liable to be asked to come join the band. The scene was very informal.
There were two stars though, in those days. And though each had their own career, they would often perform together. Libby and Ted. Sometimes they had a whole band to back them up, and sometimes it was just Ted accompanying Libby. They performed the blues and some rock and roll. And when they got into the mood, they could just tear the night down the middle, and stop all conversation in the bar, as everyone there would focus on them, and forget anything else.
Libby would belt out a blues or some soul song, and she’d have the power of Janis Joplin, though it was never an imitation. She was just doing her own thing. And I remember on numerous occasion, hearing a passing visitor say, ‘Wow, she’s great. Is she famous? Has she made any records?’ Well, she was famous in our town. But I don’t think she ever got to the music big time. She was known in a lot of places here in Israel. I guess you need more than talent to make it big. A lot of drive, and ambitions, and a bit of luck. Sometimes you have to sacrifice part of your private life too. But back in those days, we didn’t need any more than we had… and we had some really fine music of all types.