Theodore Bikel, Austrian-born folk singer, actor,
and human rights activist, passed away recently
at the age of 91.
Best known for playing Tevye in the Broadway
production of "Fiddler On The Roof", and a veteran
of many other theatrical productions as well as
film and television, Bikel was also an outspoken,
indefatigable human rights activist who had protested
at the Soviet and South African embassies in the days
that the Soviet Union and Apartheid existed, getting
arrested at both places.
Your appreciative Peasant had the opportunity to hear
Bikel fifteen years ago when he was on the lecture
circuit, and found him to be all that he was made out
to be, and more besides. Warm, genuine, caring, witty,
and even handy with a song (he sang a couple of
Hebrew hymns), Bikel captivated the entire audience
that evening! My only regret is that I didn't get to meet
him and tell him directly how much I enjoyed his lecture,
his theatrical work, his singing, and his efforts to improve
the human condition for all, especially for those whose
conditions were made intolerable and unbearable by tyrants,
be they fascist, communist, or any other terrible
variety of freedom-squelching ideology. Bikel played
no favorites but for his preference for humanity, for
human beings to live free and thrive. He was also a strong
opponent of capital punishment, be it for political
opponents of a corrupt government or for those guilty
of violent, non-political crimes. Bikel, no softie on crime,
believed in sentencing which could be amended or
reversed in the event of new evidence coming to light
proving the innocence of, or at least the doubt of the guilt,
of the accused.
Theodore Bikel was as much at home singing with his
fellow folk singer friends which included the Clancy
Brothers and Tommy Makem, Odetta, and many other
of his contemporaries as he was protesting the
unjust treatment of someone somewhere in the world.
Bikel was a great soul with a great voice and a great
presence. He shall be greatly missed.
Rest in Peace, Theo.