January 31, 2023


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About that Hebrew version of the ‘fight song’ in ‘Fleishman is in trouble’

5 min read

An example of the universal power of pop music on screen is a key scene from the FX limited series “Fleishman is in Trouble”. Jesse Eisenberg’s protagonist Toby Fleishman, a divorced father mired in loneliness and existential angst, walks the sidewalks of New York City with his two teenage children, Hannah and Solly, in a Hebrew-language cover of Rachel Platten’s 2014 radio song. ” Flying in Vol.

It’s a tender sequence, and an intelligent one, that marks a major flash of radical acceptance for Toby, a Jewish hepatologist whose ex-wife (Claire Dennis) has disappeared, struggling to keep a fractured family afloat. Modern day divorce. Israeli musician Yuval Ben-Ami’s performance is string and raw – there’s no polish mixed in – and serves as both an anthem and a protest, hinting at Toby’s determination to move on despite the shocking loss.

This is the second appearance of the song. Platten’s original version is accompanied by a scene where Hannah begins her own path to self-determination. Later, in a rabbi’s office at their family synagogue, he decided not to go ahead with his bat mitzvah. The burden is too heavy on him. “We’re a mess,” she tells her father. “I want to create my own heritage.”

“Pop music is powerful — especially for kids,” says Ben-Ami, a Jerusalem-born book author, musician, National Geographic travel journalist and tour guide who leads cultural tours in Israel and for Palestinians.

“The whole story is about crisis,” he says of “Fleischmann.” “And there is a moment of crisis, whenever we go through a crisis, where we recognize that there is an opportunity, that we can grow. We don’t recognize it right away, we don’t go into crisis thinking that there is this opportunity for growth, but the moment is there. It does not heal us immediately. It doesn’t necessarily redeem. But as the song comes on, that’s the moment for both Hannah and Toby. It comes as a pivotal moment, a cathartic moment.”

Taffy Brodesser-Akner, a New York Times pop culture writer and author of the best-selling novel on which the series was based — as well as the show’s creator — discovered Ben-Ami’s work while searching for a Hebrew song with her son’s bar mitzvah slideshow montage. He performed Ben-Ami’s Hebrew-language version of Lorde’s “Royals” on YouTube.

“It was mesmerizing,” said Brodesser-Akner, who wrote the novel “Fleischmann in Trouble” while planning for her son’s big day. Hannah’s intended bat mitzvah wasn’t in the book — and the only scene in the TV adaptation was recast — but after hearing Ben-Ami’s “Royals,” Brodesser-Akner submitted a mental note: “If this show ever gets made, I’ll get one from her.” Would like to commission a Hebrew ‘fight song’.

“I didn’t have the courage to approach her and say, ‘Listen, I’m this Jewish woman from New York who’s looking for a bar mitzvah song,'” says Brodesser-Akner (who, incidentally, learned during this interview that Fleishman was up for a WGA award. was nominated). When he reached out to Ben-Ami, who makes his home in Aix-en-Provence, France, it was through a mutual friend.

“I asked him if he would do it, and it was like a scratch track for too much money,” she recalls. “And he said yes. And then everybody loved it so much, like I knew they would. So, we recorded it in a studio and it was amazing. That’s one of my favorite parts. [making the series]. And every time the song comes on, it makes sense.”

Ben-Ami, whose upcoming memoir, “Monumental Trees of Italy,” is based on his experiences touring Europe as a street musician in his 20s, recorded the demo of “Fight Song” in Israel, where he visited his parents. Later, he notes, “the actual track was recorded in France.”

“It was a six-hour session, at the end of which Taffy listened to different versions recorded,” says Ben-Ami. “And he said, ‘I want it raw, like you did the demo.’ So, we went back and I sang it with the guitar. The rawness that he wanted and that I love. He understood my art.”

Coincidentally, Ben-Ami first heard Platten’s “Fight Song” on the radio while driving his car a few days before Brodesser-Akner contacted him.

“I didn’t hear it when it was a big hit. It was new to me,” she says.

Still, he was “struck” by its message, its meaning. Throughout the process of translating the song from English to Hebrew, Ben-Ami was always mindful of how American audiences could relate to it.

“I decided to keep the word ‘fight’ in English,” said Ben-Ami. “Because you can write”J Shir Ha Crove Shelley.’ but blood, in an Israeli context, very militant. This refers to the entire IDF [Israeli Defense Forces] Experience but ‘fight’ serves as contemporary Israeli slang – especially youth slang. So it relates to the younger generation. It makes sounds like pops. It makes the song more recognizable. And I knew Taffy would want the audience to understand that this is the song they’ve heard in English before, but now it’s in Hebrew and in this Jewish context, with a twist.”

Since Hebrew has both feminine and masculine versions of verbs and nouns, Ben-Amio made the creative choice to translate the lyrics to “meileini.”

“When I read the book I realized that the lyrics also reflect the father’s experience – because from the series adaptation, I only knew about the girl,” he says. “But there are really four crises in this story – two women, a girl, a man. They all deal with this crisis in different ways. So, I thought, it makes sense that it’s in the feminine eye.”

Ultimately, Ben-Ami says, “Fleishman” is “the story of New York, but also the story of the Jewish experience.” He wanted to weave in elements of both into the “Fight Song” cover. He also wanted to explore the dichotomy between American Jewry and the Israeli Jewish community — a reminder of which we see in “Fleishman” when we learn about Toby’s group-bonding experiences with friends in Israel on an organized junior year study abroad program in college.

Because while there are definite cultural similarities between American and Israeli Jews, there are also cosmic differences. Through music, Ben-Ami aimed to bridge those social divides.

“There’s a tension between these identities, and as an Israeli I’m drawn to the Jewish American experience—I’m very curious about that,” he explains. “Now that the song’s out as part of the series — and on the soundtrack — I’ve found resonance with this particular community. And I’m inspired by that, that I’m able to move this community with something that I’ve created. And I think that’s where I came from and where I’ve come from. relationship between them [American-born Jews] This is a very nice way to come out of the game.”

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