Jukebox Jewkbox! The art of vinyl at the Jewish Museum London

| 14 July 2016

The Jewish Museum is celebrating Jewish music with an immersive celebration of shellac and vinyl

Camden Town, with its rich and colourful musical heritage, is an ideal setting to tell this story. Jukebox, Jewkbox! celebrates the role Jews have played in the history of recorded music, both from an artistic standpoint and as industry influencers.

Here's a taster of some of the vinyl and artists featured in the exhibition.

Cantor Yossele Rosenblatt 

a photo of an album cover with a bearded Cantor Yossele Rosenblatt on the cover
© Jewish Museum Hohenems/Robert Fessler
The Ukrainian-born singer and composer is still regarded by many as the greatest cantor of the 20th century and the man who introduced synagogue music into the middle-class Jewish home.

Renowned both for his emotion-drenched delivery and an ability to effortlessly flit from tenor to falsetto soprano, Rosenblatt originally moved to the US in 1912 and his fame soon began to reach the beyond the synagogue. In 1927 he even landed a singing role in the 1927 film The Jazz Singer.

But the Jewish Caruso, as some dubbed him, didn’t live long enough to enjoy the fruits of his fame; the stress of failed business deals, debts and bankruptcy may have led to his 1933 death in Jerusalem aged just 51.

Sophie Tucker

a photo of the seven inch 45 cover Life Begins at Forty by Sophie Tucker in which Tucker wears her posh frock and hair in a bun in black and white photo
© Jewish Museum Hohenems/Robert Fessler
Another Ukrianian born singer, Tucker was, in marked contrast to the religious Rosenblatt, a singer, comedian, actress and radio personality whose risqué songs earned her the sobriquet “the Last of the Red Hot Mamas”.

A vaudeville act with a brassy, bawdy and often self deprecating manner, Tucker survived the demise of Vaudeville to become a popular recording artist, radio show host and occasional film star whose fame and popularity lasted until her death, from lung cancer aged 79, in 1966.

The Barry Sisters

a photo of an album sleeve showing the Barry sisters descending the stairs from an aeroplane
© Jewish Museum Hohenems/Robert Fessler
Bronx-born sisters Minnie and Clare Bagelman, best known for their stage name the Barry Sisters, forged a successful career in American klezmer and jazz spanning from the 1940s to the early 1970s. Singing popular and jazz tunes in Yiddish, often behind lush, swinging arrangements typical of the easy listening era, the sisters eventually toured with the American musician and humourist Mickey Katz.

Their last album, My Way, was released in 1974 before Minnie (Merna) Barry died from a brain tumour in 1976. Her sister Clare died in 2014 aged 94

Mickey Katz

a photo of a the Album Cover Mish Mosh by Mickey Katz in which Katz sits on a butchers block in apron and cap with his soprano sax. Behind him trumpets and clarinets hang on the wall next to salami and bagels.
© Jewish Museum Hohenems/Robert Fessler
Photo of the album cover The Most Mishige by Mickey Katz in which Katz hams it up next to a tall model striking a pose in pedal pushers and high heels
© Jewish Museum Hohenems/Robert Fessler
Arguably the most famous Jewish American musician of the post war era, Katz’ mixture of jazz, swing, klezmer and Jewish humour found its way onto a string of popular albums released between the 1940s and the 1960s.

With names like Mish Mosh, The Most Mishige, Mickey Katz Greatest Shticks, and Simcha Time: Music for Weddings, Bar Mitzvahs, and Brisses, the accent was always firmly on parody. Popular tunes were given a comical Yiddish or 'Yinglish' makeover resulting in classics like Bagel Call Rag (Bugle Call Rag), Old Black Smidgick (Old Black Magic) and Borscht Riders in the Sky (Ghost Riders in the Sky)

Katz wasn’t to everyone’s taste and some accused him of perpetuating stereotypes, but he is today seen as the progenitor of a string of Jewish humourists ranging from Mel Brooks to Woody Allen. He died in California in 1985.

The Karmon Israeli Singers and Dancers

a photo of the album cover Israel Sings! by the Karmon Israeli Dancers and Singers who are pictured singing and leaping into the air on the cover
© Jewish Museum Hohenems/Robert Fessler
a photo of a record cover with the Karmon Israeli Dancers and Singers - young men and women singing and clapping while dressed in matching male and female traditional outfits
© Jewish Museum Hohenems/Robert Fessler
Originally a dance troupe based in Israel founded by and featuring the choreography of Jonathan (Yonatan) Karmon, the Karmon Israeli Dancers and Singers debuted in the USA on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1958.

Recordings and tours to Europe, North America and South America followed in which Karmon's interpretation of modern dance was blended with Jewish folk traditions. The albums are filled with folk-inspired songs from the Israel of the early sixties sung in Hebrew and chime with the rise in popularity of folk music of the time.

Esther and Abel Ofarim

a photo of a 45rpm single sleeve with a couple - esther and abi ofarim wearing sixties gear on the cover
© Jewish Museum Hohenems/Robert Fessler
Singing husband and wife duo Esther & Abi Ofarim are probably best known today for their 1968 novelty  hit Cinderella Rockefella, a catchy if somewhat annoying ear-worm of a tune which hit the top of the charts in a number of countries including the UK.

After touring the world the couple divorced in Germany in 1970. Abi battled alcoholism and drug addiction but remained in the music business;  1963 Eurovision winner Esther went on to forge a successful solo career.

Barbara Streisand

a photo of the album cover for Barbara Streisand's Superman in which Streisand wears long socks and pumps and pulls her superman T-shirt demurely down over her hot pants while smiling coyly at the camera
© Jewish Museum Hohenems/Robert Fessler
Superstar Streisand followed the success of her film and album A Star is Born with Superman, an album of outtakes from the aforementioned movie together with some new material including Billy Joel’s New York State of Mind.

The original gatefold packaging featured Streisand wearing short shorts and Superman t-shirt, an outfit that that was originally featured in a scene from A Star is Born.

Amy Winehouse

A photo of a picture disc record with a picture of Amy Winehouse in its centre
© Jewish Museum Hohenems/Robert Fessler
Camden girl Amy Winehouse, whose personal items featured in a highly popular exhibition at the Jewish Museum London in 2013, always wore her Jewish-ness with pride. Her tragic death from alcohol poisoning in London in July 2011 robbed the world of one of the best vocal talents of her generation.

  • Jukebox, Jewkbox! A Century on Shellac and Vinyl is at the Jewish Museum London July 14 – October 16 2016

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