Nearly a thousand delegates from Yiddish cultural groups in the U.S. and Canada convened in New York for the first convention of the Yidishe Kultur Gesellshaft (Society) on this date in 1930. Khayim Zhitlowsky and Zalman Raisin, editor of the Tog, were the keynote speakers, with messages read from John Dewey, Simon Dubnow, and Yiddish writers’ organizations from Argentina, Palestine, and Poland. “Jewish culture in the Yiddish language,” said Zhitlowsky, “. . . is now world-wide. We in America are only a link in the great chain of Yiddish cultural creativeness. The Yiddish language is the national-psychic connecting force which links us all together.” Raisin described “Yiddishism” as a revolutionary movement, “to emancipate the Jewish masses spiritually from the fetters imposed upon them by religion.” John Dewey’s message suggested that the “melting pot” metaphor of American culture can only be progressive insofar as “there is an effort to conserve and nurture the characteristic values which each of the component elements has within.” The conference took place twenty-two years after the Czernowitz Yiddish Language Conference and five years after the establishment of YIVO (Yiddish Scientific Institute in Vilna, both of which served to elevate the status of Yiddish as a Jewish and world language, with some 11 million speakers worldwide before the Nazi assault.
“All Jewish movements throughout the world must make use of Yiddish if they wish to appeal to the Jewish masses.”—Khayim Zhitlowsky
JEWDAYO ROCKS! Perry Farrell (Peretz Bernstein), front man for Jane’s Addiction, was born on this date in Queens in 1959. To see them in action at the Lollapalooza festival, look below.
Record producer Syd Nathan, a high school drop-out who founded King Records in Cincinnati, died at 63 on this date in 1968. King Records released James Brown’s first single, “Please, Please”, as well as Brown’s 1963 hit album, Live at the Apollo, Vol. I, and created mainstream audiences for rhythm and blues artists as well as rockabilly icons like Hank Ballard. Syd Nathan began as a retail store owner with a mail-order record business, then began to press his own discs for distribution in the late 1940s. His label not only brought together black and white musicians, and cross-pollinated hillbilly and “race” music, but was the first record company to employ African Americans among its workforce of 400, with some black executives even managing white Appalachian bands. Nathan also enriched himself, however, by sharing or stealing songwriting credits for many of King’s acts, which assured a steady stream of royalties to him. He was an observant Jew who suffered from severe near-sightedness, asthma, and heart disease, yet he worked indefatigably and was one of the true originators of rock and roll — for which he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1997.
“We pay for ability. And ability has no race, no religion, no color.” —Syd Nathan
Bob Dylan recorded twenty takes of “Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again” in Nashville on this date in 1966. The song appeared on Blonde on Blonde (1966), his first double-album. He would return to create Nashville Skyline in 1969, and on this date in that year recorded “Nashville Skyline Rag” and “Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here with You.” Nashville Skykline, with its pure country music style and his crooning vocal style, marked a weird and final break with Dylan’s image as “toastmaster of any generation,” as he later wrote. “[T]hat notion needed to be pulled up by its roots.” The album sold well, reaching No. 3 on the Billboard chart. To see the Grateful Dead playing “Stuck Inside of Mobile,” see below.
“[M]aking albums with Johnny Cash in Nashville was tantamount to abdication in many eyes.” –Clinton Heylin, Bob Dylan: Behind the Shades Revisited.
“And here I sit so patiently
Waiting to find out what price
You have to pay to get out of
Going through all these things twice.” —Bob Dylan
Barry Mann (Imberman), whose catalog includes more than 600 songs, was born in Brooklyn on this date in 1939. Mann sang lead on “Who Put the Bomp?” — cowritten with Gerry Goffen, who eventually became Carole King‘s songwriting and marital partner. Mann then teamed up with lyricist Cynthia Weil (they, too, got married) and began decades of a remarkably productive partnership. They introduced a strain of class-conscious and socially conscious songs to the Brill Building’s output with “Uptown” (for the Crystals), “We Gotta Get out of This Place” (the Animals), “Magic Town” (the Vogues), “On Broadway” (the Drifters), and “Kicks” (Paul Revere and the Raiders). They also wrote the Righteous Brothers’ “(You’re My) Soul and Inspiration,” and (with Phil Spector) “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling,” the most-played radio hit in history. Mann has worked as producer, arranger, and instrumentalist with John Lennon, The Pointer Sisters, Michael Bolton, Mavis Staples, Gladys Knight, and many other monster musicians, and has scored music for stage and screen. He is, of course, an inductee to the Songwriters Hall of Fame and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
“We lived, ate, and breathed pop songs.” —Barry Mann
by Jacob Perle 2012 was a good year for Jewish music, with mainstream releases from both Regina Spektor and Leonard Cohen. The Spektor album, What We Saw From The Cheap Seats, contains the gentlest call to live that we’ve heard in a while, a song in which she reminds us that, yes, we’re still alive [...]
Simon & Garfunkel released their second album, Sounds of Silence, on this date in 1966, and were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame on this date in 1990. The duo grew up in Kew Gardens, Queens, and met in an elementary school production of Alice in Wonderland (Paul Simon played the White [...]
Jann Simon Wenner, who co-founded Rolling Stone magazine with Ralph Gleason in 1967 with $7,500 in borrowed funds, was born in New York on this date in 1946. He was active in the Berkeley Free Speech movement and with Ramparts magazine. Wenner was a hands-on publisher who conducted many of Rolling Stone‘s best interviews and [...]
The oldies cover group Sha Na Na headlined Carnegie Hall on this date in 1971, after three years as an opening act at rock venues such as the Fillmore East and the Fillmore West for such groups as the Grateful Dead, the Kinks, and the Mothers of Invention. Six years later, the group’s popularity would [...]
Ben Weisman, who wrote fifty-seven songs for Elvis Presley, was born in Providence, Rhode Island on this date in 1921. Weisman’s songs produced sixty gold records, record sales of over 75 million, and thirty movie scores, including for Jailhouse Rock. Other recording artists who made hits of his songs are Barbra Streisand, Nat King Cole, [...]
British guitarist Peter Green (Greenbaum) quit John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, in which he had replaced Eric Clapton, on this date in 1967. Soon after, Green formed Fleetwood Mac, one of rock’s most enduring bands — but he left the band in 1970 after deciding that he wanted them to give away all of their money. (His [...]