A Star on Mount Gilboa

Will we have rockers like Joe Cocker a generation from now? I doubt that very much.

It was one of those evenings whose memory you cherish for years. As the masses crowded at the Volume Kinneret show on the lakeshore, a star was born at the foot of the mountain. The last time I had seen such a star was when Yisrael Bar-On, the new star of "Kochav Nolad" (the Israeli version of "American Idol"), had just been born. It was Joe Cocker in concert on Mount Gilboa on Tuesday, in an Israeli-Arab coexistence festival sponsored by the regional council.

After honor badges had been distributed to a few good Jews and Arabs, the kind who would never annoy us, Kochav Nolad refugees arrived to hear Cocker in the spectacular amphitheater on the outskirts of Ma'ayan Harod, of all places. The two events - Volume Kinneret and volume Cocker - were only a few dozen kilometers apart, but the mountains of darkness and a whole generation separated them.

It's been a long time since such a moving triumph of man's spirit over his biological age has been seen here. Forget the Olympics - that's a world that belongs to the young. On the Gilboa, a miracle took place: It turned out that the world belongs to the old as well. Cocker proved that time has no power over him. Almost. There hasn't been such a stark contrast for a long time as that between the masses' darling and Cocker the rocker.

If you want to know how far popular music - actually the entire culture - has come, compare these two. A syrupy day-old singer, today enveloped with glory and tomorrow forgotten as if he had never existed, and a musical giant who for decades has been doing his thing, with the same professionalism, the same spirit and above all the same truth, cutting through all the futility surrounding him.

When Cocker sang hoarsely "you are so beautiful to me," an entire amphitheater got goosebumps. This could not happen with those plastic singers, even if a million text messages voted for them. Wait and see where our little Srulik will be 10 years from now and look where Cocker is today, and where he was 10 and 40 years ago.

A generation ago, Cocker was on the verge of exploding on stage. With his husky voice and alcoholic record, I think I was worried about his health the previous time he performed here. You wouldn't have recognized the man who appeared on stage on Tuesday - bald, with a protruding belly, moving heavily like the neighborhood barber. But when the band struck up, the background singers started chanting and he began to sing, the magic - there's no other word for it - happened. He gave his soul, no less.

Sweating, with his neck veins threatening to burst, he jumped up and down like a young man. As he always did, as though no time had elapsed. The same voice, the same power, the same clean sound with no false notes, either in the audible or inner voice. An hour and a half he sang without speaking. Only once did he say the customary "we love you, Israel" and "get together." That was it. All the rest was in the music, in the wonderful timing, the splendid instrumentation, straight from the gut, as the saying goes.

Will we have rockers like Cocker a generation from now? I doubt that very much. When he left the stage I was convinced I would never see him again. But that was exactly how I felt the previous time he was here, almost 15 years ago.