Wilco is one of my favorite current bands. They follow a pretty unique musical path crossing all sorts of genres—singer-songwriter, alternative country, rock and experimental sound manipulators. I first heard them in 2002 or so when their “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot” album came out. Their original record label, Warner, hated the album and let the band go. The Nonesuch record label then published the album that Rolling Stone considers one of the best of the 2000s. Given that it’s summer—though without concerts, can this really be considered summer?—here’s one of my favorite songs from the record “Heavy Metal Drummer”:
Much to my surprise, I recently discovered that Jeff Tweedy, the leader of Wilco, converted to Judaism a few years ago. As he explained, when his son Sammy started to struggle with his bar mitzvah training, Tweedy offered to go with him to temple to talk with the rabbi. As it turned out, while Sammy studied his lessons, Jeff started to explore converting.
Throughout the pandemic, Jeff’s wife, Susan, has been producing “The Tweedy Show,” which features the family talking and performing. One episode really struck me. It was the Father’s Day show, which featured Susan’s dad, Peter Miller, the personification of the smart, charming, sentimental zayde. He’s crying when the show opens, overflowing with the naches of being with his family during the pandemic. Then, about 18 minutes in, Sammy and Spencer sing the Misheberach, which gets Peter crying again. Mamenyu!
I suspect most Jewish families have a character like Peter. He reminds me of my odd but wonderful great uncle Harry. I bet they have even told the same jokes.
Would that have happened if Jeff had not converted? Who knows. I just find it simply amazing that a major rock star is willing to let us in for such a personal glimpse of his family life. This episode is so haimish, full of familial love, quirkiness and a few cool songs.
There are many music writers who joke that Jeff Tweedy and Wilco will be considered the “dad rock” of the future. But for this dad, Father’s Day was even more special shared with the Tweedy family.
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