By Marvin Pinkert
Amble down Pratt Street just east of the Inner Harbor and you will discover Baltimore's oldest neighborhood: Jonestown. Site of historic homes, churches and museums dating from the early 1800s, this fall Jonestown is also where you'll find Baltimore's newest experience — Paul Simon: Words and Music.
It's the first stop on a national tour for this exhibit from The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (if you haven't been to Cleveland recently, you've never seen this exhibit). It's coming to our museum, The Jewish Museum of Maryland, starting October 11, and we couldn't be more excited. When we were offered this exhibit last spring, we jumped at the chance – not just because I’m a lifelong fan of Paul Simon – but because his story fits so well with our emphasis on the everyday impacts of people of Jewish heritage on American life and culture.
The exhibit is filled to the brim with artifacts from six decades of Simon's career. Here you'll find the first guitar he ever owned, a letter to Art Garfunkel at summer camp, draft lyrics for "The Boxer" on a yellow note pad, clips from his outrageously funny performances on Saturday Night Live and the story behind the creation of "Graceland."
What really makes this exhibit unique is the fact that it's autobiographical. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame recorded more than three hours of original interviews with Simon in order to develop narrative stations for the exhibit—this is material you won't hear elsewhere. This also means that the exhibit not only chronicles the events of Simon's life, but also documents the creative process behind his incredible body of work. So if you are among those who are still crazy (for Paul Simon) after all these years, you won't want to miss this show.
In addition to the main exhibit, the Jewish Museum of Maryland will feature a display and program suite called An American Tune: Jewish Connections to Folk and Folk-Rock. This companion to the Paul Simon experience asks whether the presence of so many artists and entrepreneurs of Jewish heritage in the folk movement is coincidence or something more. What might link the careers of Paul Simon, Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Phil Ochs, and Peter Yarrow among others? Come see the exhibit and make your own conclusions.
For more details on our schedule of Sunday and evening special programs, visit our website at jewishmuseummd.org and click on "Events.” The Jewish Museum of Maryland is open Sunday through Thursday, 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Marvin Pinkert is executive director of the Jewish Museum of Maryland and tells us that he still owns the "Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme" poster that decorated his bedroom 50 years ago.