Jewish grandmothers, aging hippies and Jerry Seinfeld all filed into the auditorium of Manhattan’s Asia Society last week for a $500-a-head benefit for CLAL, The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership. Then the lights dimmed and a man with large hair took the stage, wearing tight black pants and a shimmering golden shirt unbuttoned halfway to his belly.
He was Joe Lynn Turner, former lead singer for the heavy metal band Deep Purple, which recorded such classics as “Lick it Up” and “Bad Attitude,” and he was there to present the audience � including Jerry and Jessica Seinfeld, George Stephanopolous, and Robert DeNiro � with the world premiere of a rock opera about Galileo.
Rock geek Interjection: Well actually he did three albums with Deep Purple’s guitarist Richie Blackmore in the group Rainbow, and one with a 1990 incarnation of Deep Purple, but the songs called “Lick it Up” and “Bad Attitude” were not done with him as the singer. The song with him as a singer that got airplay was “Stone Cold.”
Departing from the old story of the enlightened intellectual, the improvised tale portrayed Galileo as an impetuous snob standing up to a righteous Catholic Church. Backed up by an eight-piece band, Turner sometimes assumed the role of stargazer, and sometimes the role of Pope Urban, using 1970s-style hip gyrations and disco arm swinging to dramatize the story.
I wish I had video of this, it must be a riot. Portraying Pope Urban with 1970’s dance music I guess is true Urban Renewal. Actually I am waiting for a musical on St. Peter called “On this Rock Opera.”
Billed as “an innovative program bringing together religion and science through the story of Galileo,” the event, titled “In Concert for One People,” was designed to honor “the diversity of the American Jewish community, and [celebrate] CLAL as a leading national voice for religious pluralism.”
As a show of this commitment, after the performance the president of CLAL, Rabbi Irwin Kula, led a panel discussion with a Jesuit priest and an investigative reporter about the relevance of Galileo’s story for a modern audience.