Search for song titles, background info on our music, and more:

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Golem

The Golem
words and music by Lloyd Miller (c)(p) 2010, 2011
arrangement by Ari Dolegowski, Ely Levin, Chris Johnson, and Lloyd Miller

appears on Strange Dees, Indeed by the Deedle Deedle Dees (release date: October 31, 2011) 

The Golem is a superhero made out of mud
It can follow simple commands
But be careful what you ask it to do
Join us as we lift our big feet and walk like the Golem!

Listen to the big feet go bum! bum!
That's the sound of the Golem when he comes

A long time ago
in Prague
Jews were being persecuted
A rabbi used mud from the river
to make a Golem
and brought it to life
to defend the people
The Golem fought for the Jews of Prague
but eventually got out of control
killing and destroying
The Holy Roman Emperor begged the rabbi to stop the Golem
and promised to end the persecuting of the Jews
The rabbi agreed.
He erased the first letter of the Hebrew word "emet" on the Golem's forehead
changing it from "truth" to "dead"

Listen to the big feet go bum! bum!
That's the sound of the Golem when he comes

If you had your own Golem, a big creature that was big and strong, what would you ask it to do?

Uh... save people.

Save people?

If I had a Golem, I would ask it to make me a mansion and make me candy.

If I had a Golem, I'd have it play me a guitar and... sing me a song and... play drums to me.

If I had a Golem, I would tell it to give me attention.

Listen to the big feet go bum! bum!
That's the sound of the Golem when he comes

If I had a Golem, I would ask it to save dogs.

If I had a Golem, I would tell him to save people.

If I had a Golem, I would save bad guys.

Save bad guys?!


I wish the Golem was really real. Why are we really real?

Why are we really real?

If I had a Golem, I would ask it to... uh... bonk my dad on the head!

It was reading Michael Chabon's The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay that first got me excited about the Golem. In that book, one of the characters smuggles himself out of Prague inside a Golem, a statue made of clay, just before World War II. This is one of many tales of the Golem, a creature some call the world's first superhero. Scholars have put him / it in the long line of possible ancestors to Superman and our modern-day comic book heroes that also includes American strongman John Henry, Hercules, Atlas, and many others. People also point to the similarities between the Golem and Frankenstein.

In this song, Otto gives us a short version of one of the variations of the "Golem of Prague" story, possibly the most famous Golem narrative, and some kids -- including my kids Hazel and Grant and Dean Jones' son, Rhys -- say what they would do if they had their own Golems to command.

Google "golem" and check out these books to find out more about the folklore and history related to this fascinating character:

Golem by David Wisniewski
cool, creepy picture book good for advanced kindergarteners or elementary-aged kids. For younger kids, try Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins by Eric A. Kimmel, illustrated by John Ed. Mayer and Trina Schart Hyman. It's not about the Golem but it's another eerie Jewish tale with scary creatures. My son loved this book when he was two.

The Golem and the Wondrous Deeds of the Maharal of Prague

by Yudi Rosenberg, translated by Curt Leviant
a book for grown-ups that tells a detailed version of the Golem of Prague story and digs deep into the cultural and religious history of the character

The Golem by Isaac Bashevis Singer, illustrated by Uri Shulevitz
out of print, but available online-- looks awesome

Many many other fascinating books about the Golem are out there. Fantasy books, plays, a retelling by Elie Wiesel... Tell us what you find.

Note on the music: In addition to our family shows, the Deedle Deedle Dees do a lot of music for grown-ups. We play swing, blues, bluegrass, soul, R&B, old rock-n-roll and, most pertinent to this song, klezmer.

Klezmer, in brief, is Jewish jazz, traditional and spiritual music that has roots in Jewish culture and religion and is played in an improvisational style. Ari Dolegowski AKA Moby Dee has been largely responsible for introducing the band to this music and getting us gigs where we can play it.  It's really fun -- everyone should play klezmer.

This song is my attempt to write a klezmer tune. I originally wrote it as an instrumental. We regularly perform klezmer at bar and bat mitzvahs, other synagogue functions, private parties and other events. Traditional tunes, some of them really really old, make up most of our repertoire but we added this original to the set after it just came to me one day. It's one of our favorite songs to play so I adapted it with lyrics for this album.

Who does what on "The Golem"
Booker Dee (Chris Johnson): banjo, vocals
Moby Dee (Ari Dolegowski): mandolin, vocals
Otto von Dee (Ely Levin): drums, spoken narration, vocals
Ulysses S. Dee (Lloyd Miller): upright bass, interview, vocals, stomping
Dean Jones: recording, mixing, vocals, stomping
Rhys William Jones Ellis, Hazel Phipps-Miller, Grant Phipps-Miller, Annabelle (last name), Rose Lorenzo: commentary