by Danny Gaisin
That Jews contributed to the classical music genre –well recognized. Think Mendelssohn, Schoenberg, Meyerbeer, Bloch, Offenbach and Mahler. If we add in the converts, the Jewish contribution to Jazz is substantial. George Gershwin, Irving Berlin, Bob Marley,
Sammy Davis Jr., Percy Faith, Herb Alpert and Paul Shaffer immediately come to mind along with Neil Diamond and Paul Simon. But, some in-depth historical investigation by Cantor Eyal Bitton demonstrated that even the ‘rock’ category has benefitted from the poetry and heritage of the Hebraic experience.
A Powerpoint© and lecture presentation last evening at Hamilton’s Beth Jacob Synagogue was an eye/mind/& ear-opener. Dylan is a practising Jew! Simmons of KISS and Roth of VAN HALEN both turn out to be surprisingly non-Gentile! To learn that the Beastie Boys are a trio of Brooklyn conservatives was even more of a revelation than learning that Sedaka and Billy Joel are also co-religionists.
Bitton conceptualizes that it is the history; heritage; and tradition that makes it so unproblematic for engrossed young musicians to imbue their lyrics or points-of-view with the baggage of generations. Excerpts from our liturgy; referrals to recent traumatic events, and a strong sense of almost biblical fair-play crowd the lyrics of even the Hard Rock genus. Obviously, Bitton has contributed an amazing thesaurus of research into his presentation. Unfortunately, last evening’s audience was far less than what the subject and the production deserved. This scribe hopes that the Chazzan takes his show on the road; and that there’s a follow-up (Jewish Rock 2.0?) is in the foreseeable future.