Friday, August 31, 2012

Pat Monahan of Train Gets Dumped on Yom Kippur

THIS TIME OF YEAR JEWS have a tendancy to make confession, and I have a confession to make. I like the band Train. I don’t know if that is embarrassing or not, that is how oblivious I can be. I just like their infectious pop tunes. It is a little annoying that a lot of their songs become background music in commercials, but they are entitled to make money, especially since people don’t but albums anymore.

Since their early hits like “Meet Virginia” and “Drops of Jupiter” I have always liked their songs and found them thought provoking. Once used “Calling All Angels” was the theme of my on campus Rosh Hashanah sermon about being our better selves. I am not sure if that is what the song is about, and that is beauty of the whole thing. I never really imagined that Train was particularly Jewish, but they got my attention last week.

I was on a long drive and heard the song “50 Ways to Say Goodbye” from their new album. (Video)

I was more than a little surprised when lead singer Pat Monahan who is singing about the woman who left him and complains that he “can’t believe she left on Yom Kippur.” Where did that come from? Extensive Googling has determined that Pat is not Jewish, though he once performed at an LA Jewish Federation event. So what was this about? To be honest, I have no idea, I think it is just a funny rhyme at that moment in this humorous song, but it being Elul and the Jewish New Year being right around the corner, it got me thinking, is Train teasing me to seek out some deeper meaning?

The song (I figured out after listening a few times) is about a guy who upon losing his girlfriend, is so embarrassed and upset, that he decides he will have to lie to cover up his shame. He says when his friends ask where she is, he will make things up like that she was fried on a tanning bed, eaten by a lion, drowned in a mudslide, went down on airplane. These and others are all kind of grizzly but funny in the context of the song. The humor though seems a thin cover for the heartache.

When we blow it in relationships, romantic or platonic, lovers or friends, we are often ashamed of our responsibility for what transpired. Isn’t it much easier to find elaborate explanations for a failed relationship, than to just own up to our role in it? I think the mention of Yom Kippur should be a remez or hint for Jewish listeners. This season of repentance reminds us that we will not be able to repair our relationships until we are ready to say we are sorry and admit what we did wrong.

This is the heart of teshuvah or repentance, we need to stop running away from our faults and face them head on. Believe me the guy in this song is not getting the girl back with the tales he is telling. The video hints to this, when Pat who is spilling his (fake) guts to David Hasselhoff is humiliated when his supposedly dead girlfriend walks in the scene.

Did Train mean to add meaning to our High Holidays? Doubtful, but if I ever right a spoof of this song it will have to be "50 Ways to Say Todah (thanks)."

Rabbi David Levy is the Director of Teen Learning for United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism. Follow him on Twitter at @RabbiDaveLevy.