Saturday, October 01, 2005

The Rabbi & the Rock Star

Chabad Rabbi Yosef Langer gave up acid for orthodox Judaism in the '70s. His new friend, Perry Farrell, was a poster boy for '90s debauchery. They're dancing together now in the temple of rock & roll

Words by Michelle Goldberg
Photos by Tom Pitts

As a rain-soaked crowd shivers before a Golden Gate Park stage, one of rock & roll's most notorious bad-boy shamans locks arms with a Chassidic rabbi and the two sing "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star." The audience, in the park to celebrate Israel's 50th anniversary, seems to recognize Rabbi Yosef Langer, who sports a "Grateful Yid" baseball cap over his yarmulke. Fewer realize that the skinny man in shiny maroon-and-gold robes, curly hair covered by a turban, is rock legend Perry Farrell. When the song is through, Farrell reads a speech that founding Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion gave when Israel became a nation, accompanied by a wash of wah-wah ambient noise. Then, Farrell performs live for the first time with his new band, Gobbelee. They do two songs, one of them, "Happy Birthday Jubilee," about the messianic age that some Orthodox Jews believe is only a generation away. As Farrell sings, the Rabbi sways near one of the speakers, hands in the air, his fingers making peace signs. Farrell cavorts gracefully around the stage, arms pinwheeling. Drug-free since Chanukah, he's sober except for a bit of pot while he was getting dressed. Nearly 40 years old and three months from fatherhood, he's not tripping on anything but Torah. Perry Farrell has found God.

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