New Orleans, 1974.

My life was satisfying enough. A downtown studio with a Steinway. Time to think. Ragtime pianist / new age composer.

I had met Lou Brown then, and was a friend his last months of physical agony. Once he had been a brilliant Lower East Side yeshiva prodigy. The Depression had changed that. Jewish dialectics while people were starving in the street?

The Party valued him.

After Stalin he rethought his life and was a watchmaker. His theology? Mozart.

One afternoon he asked me—a Jewish illiterate—if I wanted to hear a niggun.

 I didn't understand.

He pulled himself up to his crutches and slowly, painfully, found the tape.

Children singing in Hebrew -

A-a-nim zem-i-rot
Ve-shi-i-rim e-e-rog
Ki-i ei-le-cha
Na-af-shi ta-a-rog...

[I'll compose sweet songs
And weave psalms
For to You
My soul longs

My soul desires
The shade of Your hand
To know every secret of Your mystery... ]

Lou looked at me curiously while I cried uncontrollably.

Much later I learned that the Lubavitcher Rebbe had taught this melody to the Chassidim late one Simchat Torah night in 1961.