Tuna Takes Tel Aviv -David Brinn
[I]t’s not too often that Israel gets the chance to play host to two members of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame at the same time.
Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Casady were both integral components of Jefferson Airplane, the San Francisco rockers who epitomized the freewheeling music and lifestyle of the 1960s.
For Kaukonen, his Israel debut on December 22 will complete a Jewish circle begun when he bought his first electric guitar for the Airplane in 1965 – with money cashed in from Israeli bonds.
“My [maternal] grandmother, who was a Russian [Jewish] immigrant to the United States, was an ardent Zionist, and every year she would give me a $100 bond. When I joined the Airplane, I withdrew something like $500, which was a lot of money back then, and bought a Rickenbacker,” chuckled the 69-year-old Kaukonen.
“My wife converted to Judaism six years ago. I never really practiced myself, so of course I got involved with the Jewish community. And our four-and-a-half-year-old daughter is being raised Jewish,” he added.
Still in flight -David Brinn
45 years after using his Israel Bonds money to make rock & roll history, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame 1996 inductee Kaukonen is going to repay his debt by making his Israel debut with Hot Tuna on December 22.
“I’m very excited about coming to Israel for the first time,” said Kaukonen with a relaxed, slightly Southern drawl which hinted at his upbringing close to Virginia.
While he wasn’t raised as a practicing Jew, he was aware that he was different from his friends from an early age. “[E]ven though [we] weren’t observant in the home, the culture and the food was absolutely Jewish,” he said.
In another twist of fate, Kaukonen, whose Judaism sat dormant for much of his life, experienced a spiritual renewal of sorts when his wife, Vanessa, decided to convert to Judaism six years ago.
“She was raised Catholic but this woman was born to be Jewish,” said Kaukonen. “Everyone who meets her says so. “I had never really practiced Judaism myself, so of course, I got involved with Vanessa in the Jewish community. I went along for the ride with a lot of it, and we studied Hebrew together,” said Kaukonen.
"I’ve always felt at home with Jews, and I look forward to having that feeling in Israel as well,” he said, adding that the family was planning to spend five days in the country around the show.
[T]he legacy of the Jefferson Airplane is one that Kaukonen takes great pride in. And he doesn’t shy away from identifying with it. Besides Casady, he retains an ongoing relationship with vocalist Marty Balin, which last year resulted in another, more organic mini-reunion.
“We were playing in Florida near where Marty lives on the 40th anniversary of Woodstock, so we called him up, and he came to the show and we performed 'Volunteers,'” said Kaukonen.
The video above features the final song of the Tel Aviv concert: a wonderfully executed version of Water Song
This second video includes a birthday cake for Jorma at the conclusion