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Sorry Songs

Musical selections to put you in the mood for atonement

Liel Leibovitz
September 24, 2009

The Day of Atonement is a few days away, and tradition requires us to ask each other’s forgiveness for sins, slights, and other snafus we may have committed during the past year. If you’re in need for a bit of inspiration with all this sorry business, here are some musical examples of Jews apologizing in a variety of ways, from the morbid to the heartfelt:

“Sorry-Grateful,” by Stephen Sondheim: When it comes to relationships, Sondheim tells us, we’re always sorry-grateful and regretful-happy. “Why look for answers when none occur?” he asks. “You always are what you always were, which has nothing to do with, all to do with her.”

“Sorry Angel,” by Serge Gainsbourg: “It’s me who suicided you,” apologizes the French poet of the obscene. “Now you’re with the angels.” That’s Gainsbourg’s idea of a love song.

“Famous Blue Raincoat,” Leonard Cohen: “And what can I tell you, my brother, my killer, what can I possible say? I guess that I miss you, I guess I forgive you, I’m glad you stood in my way.” Apology accepted was never quite so poetic.

“Carbona Not Glue,” The Ramones: Some Jews just can’t get into the Yom Kippur vibe. Like Joey Ramone. “I’m not sorry for the things I do,” he yelped. In his defense, he did have a pretty good reason for his lack of repentance: “My brain is stuck from shooting glue.”

“Sorry,” Madonna: She’s not really Jewish. And she’s not really sorry. Yom Kippur or not, she asks her lover not to beg for her forgiveness. “I’ve seen it all before,” she states, “and I can’t take it anymore.” Maybe next Yom Kippur.

“Endlessly Jealous,” Lou Reed: Not usually one for heartfelt emotions, Lou Reed tries his best to repent. He’s sorry for what he said, sorry for what he did, sorry for beating up his lover. At least he’s apologetic.

Liel Leibovitz is editor-at-large for Tablet Magazine and a host of its weekly culture podcast Unorthodox and daily Talmud podcast Take One. He is the editor of Zionism: The Tablet Guide.