Defying expectations, changing the rules, and making us laugh.
The Judaica Sound Archives at FAU Libraries honors the work and life of Molly Picon. Compiling 58 of her earliest songs produced on 78 rpm records and four of her LP albums produced later in her career, the JSA invites you to revisit the talents of a truly great Jewish female icon.
Who was Molly Picon?
She was an actress, singer, and comedian whose career spanned over 70 years. Debuting in the Yiddish Theater at the age of 6 she emerged as a respected American actress, performing in Come Blow Your Horn (1963) with Frank Sinatra, and having starring roles on Broadway in Milk & Honey (1961) and film, Fiddler on the Roof (1971).
Molly Picon’s career followed Yiddish culture from the shtetl into mainstream America. Small and very youthful-looking she often had to fight to be taken seriously. She wore male clothing as a disguise through most of her breakout performance in Yidl Mit’n Fidl (1936) and many of her other early roles, including the well-known “Yankele.” In today’s world she might be considered to be a voice for women’s rights.
This documentary is filled with nostalgia, humor, “Who knew?” information and old home movie clips (I could swear I saw my Aunt Sadie dancing at a Bar Mitzvah!)
Tracing the origins of Hava Nagila from the shtetls of Europe to Israel, and on to New York and Los Angeles, we come to understand how this song became a part of our family turning up at every Bar Mitzvah and wedding.
Cameos by Connie Francis, Harry Bellafonte, Irving Fields, Leonard Nimoy, and Glen Campbell feel like visits with old friends. Want a feel-good movie that will touch your heart? This movie is a must-see for anyone who knows how to dance the hora!
Bob Berkman’s pianola brings a rich new sound to vintage early 20th century Jewish music
The first time I heard Bob Berkman’s CD, Klezmerola, I just couldn’t stop playing it. I loved the old time sound that Bob was able to achieve with his pianola. I loved the way the sound of the pianola (player piano) augmented the impact of the music that had once defined a generation of Jews and now was fading from memory.
I am delighted that the Judaica Sound Archives at Florida Atlantic University can now boast a collection of 47 Jewish songs by America’s premier pianolist, Bob Berkman.
I wrote the following review in September 2008 for the Association of Jewish Libraries. After listening to the CD many times since then, I still feel the same way.
“Take an almost vanished technology (player pianos), add vintage Jewish music and stir with just a hint of ragtime and what do you get? Klezmerola! An absolutely delightful CD album that is fun, fresh and freylekh. In this album of “Jewish music from rare piano rolls” Bob Berkman does an incredible job of bringing the music to life with a vitality achieved by actually foot-pumping an old upright player piano. The accompanying 16 page booklet provides information about each song and about the rediscovery of Jewish piano rolls. Such old familiar Yiddish songs as “Odesser Bulgar,” “Yosel,” and “Die Griene Cosina” seem especially well-suited for Bob Berkman’s pianola interpretations. I would be hard pressed to choose a favorite track. I loved them all!”
In the liner notes for his two volume CD, Klezmerola at the Yiddish Theater, Bob Berkman tells us that ” Piano roll manufacturers…were eager to record and sell current hits, and for attracting immigrant Jewish customers there was no greater source than Yiddish Theater…The market was never a large one…and surviving examples are rare.” The music on these three CDs took over 35 years to assemble.
The piano rolls only contain notes (like sheet music). Bringing them to life with dynamics, accents, phrasing, and emotion is the work of the pianolist, the person operating the player piano. Bob Berkman’s unique talent revitalizes this vintage music, providing a generous portion of nostalgia. . . . with a twist!
Bob Berkman’s love affair with the pianola began in 1975 when he was hired by QRS in Buffalo, NY, the world’s last remaining piano roll manufacturer. His talents brought him the opportunity to work on such films as Ragtime, The Best Little Whorehouse In Texas, and Reds ( in cooperation with Stephen Sondheim). He has appeared on NPR, BBC, and CBS Sunday Morning.
Using a 1912 “push-up” portable pianola, Berkman effectively turns any piano into a player piano allowing him to perform in venues all across America. In great demand as a speaker and performer, his unique and deeply personal work with Jewish rolls has been especially gratifying to him. His important discovery of George Gershwin’s only Jewish piano roll and the haunting A Gitte Nacht by the obscure Samuel Perlstein are among his most treasured accomplishments.
For information about how to buy recordings by Bob Berkman, pleaseclick here.
Click on the image above to hear this special compilation of songs from the JSA.
1. My America’s Free: Written byJerome Lipman and Irving Lewis. Sung by Molly Picon and Seymour Rechtzeit with the Abraham Ellstein Orchestra and Dave Tarras on clarinet. This upbeat tune lists some of the many things to love about America…..especially freedom!
3. America: Sung by Yiddish Theater star, Josef Feldman.
4. Yankee Doodle: This well-known Anglo-American song from the revolutionary War era is sung by Jewish singer/educator, Judy Caplan Ginsburgh.
5. I’m Going to Miami:Benny Bell tells a story of his trip to Miami Beach, Florida by train.
6. Hot Dogs and Knishes: Aaron Lebedeff sings this comic Yiddish song about Coney Island, NY.
7. Hurray far NY: This recording is from a 1967 recording of Pesach Burstein’s Yiddish Theater performance from “The Vilna Komiker.”
8. America Ich Lieb Dich (America I Love You): Sung by Yiddish Theater star, Gus Goldstein.
9. Ragtime Fiddle: Written by Irving Berlin and sung by Simon Paskal
10. Carry Me Back to Old Virginny: Originally a song sung by Confederate soldiers during the Civil War, it was recast in 1878 from the slave’s perspective. This 1916 recording by Jewish opera star, Alma Gluck, is said to have been the first operatic celebrity recording to ever sell a million copies.
11. Tell That to the Marines: Written during WWI, sung by Al Jolson.
12. God Bless the USA: This recordingis from the Judy Caplan Ginsburgh album, Musical America.
13. America America:Mike Burstyn’s tribute to the land of his birth sung in Hebrew.
14. America the Beautiful: This recording by a very young Frank Sinatra is from FAU’s Recorded Sound Archives Vintage 78rpm music collection.
Aaron Lebedeff was a Yiddish theater super star whose popularity among Jews during the 1920s and 1930s made his name a household word. More than 80 years before performers could go viral on the internet, Lebedeff was making a name for himself by driving audiences wild with his energetic and exuberant live performances. He was a super-star, like Mick Jagger, who was able to excite audiences and leave them wanting more.
His devil-may-care free spirit, love of life and allusions to sensual delights helped to create his exciting persona. Whether dressed in traditional Russian garb and boots or formal attire with straw hat and cane, his dynamic presence always kept him the center of attention. He understood nostalgia for the shtetl and was able use it to rouse his audiences’ emotions. His best known recording,Roumania, Roumania, was originally released in 1925. His second version, recorded with Sholem Secunda and Dave Tarras in 1941, became a best-selling Yiddish recording during the 1940s and still brings a smile to almost everyone who hears it!
Because the JSA has received more copies of this recording than any other single 78 rpm disc, we regularly play it on our vintage 1924 Victrola for guests who visit us at FAU’s Wimberly Library in Boca Raton, FL.
Hot Dogs and Knishes! is a comic ditty with a catchy chorus that even includes a barking dog. Hot dogs and knishes, romance and Coney Island ….. you can almost smell the nostalgia. Lebedeff’s output of records was prolific. He recorded for Emerson, Brunswick, and Vocalion.
Born in Homel, White Russia, in 1873, Lebedeff made his NYC debut in October 1920 at Thomashevsky’s National Theater, located at Second Avenue and Houston Street on New York’s Lower East Side. He was an instant sensation! His success and popularity grew throughout the 1920s and 1930s. During the 1940s and into the 1950s his career continued to thrive though revivals. He continued to perform until his death in 1960.
The Judaica Sound Archives has created this special Lebedeff online collection just for you! It contains three LPs produced by Collectors Guild and ten songs recorded on 78rpm which are in the public domain. Users of the Judaica Sound Archives Scholars Research Station have access to 186 songs on 78 rpm discs and 12 LP albums.
If you would like to donate your recordings by Aaron Lebedeff or any other Jewish performer to the JSA, please click here.
Click here to listen to songs in the JSA online collection by Aaron Lebedeff.
You can join in the celebration of klezmer right here at the Judaica Sound Archives!
The word “klezmer” derives from two Hebrew words meaning instruments of music. The roots of klezmer can be traced back to 15th century Eastern Europe. Klezmer music incorporates Chassidic melodies, folk tunes, and Jewish celebration dances. However, most ethno-musicologists would tell you that what we refer to as “klezmer” in 21st century America bears very little resemblance to the musical compositions of 100 or 200 years ago. Today’s “klezmer” is like a kaleidoscopic musical mirror that captures sound bits from the Jewish experience and reflects them back in new and sometimes wildly improbable ways.
Steeped in traditional Jewish sounds and melodies, klezmer is no longer chained to the shtetl. Today’s klezmer can be heard on the internet in Jewish homes around the world. Today’s klezmer can absorb interesting new flavors as the Jewish world of music expands.
Today’s klezmer music wakes up our Jewish cultural memory and provokes us to dance, to celebrate, to be Jewish!
Early klezmorim played the violin and other stringed instruments. Around 1855 the clarinet began to gain prominence. In the USA, clarinetists Dave Tarras and Naftule Brandwein spear-headed a klezmer revolution during the 1920’s. Today klezmer music continues to evolve. It now includes everything from traditional renditions to mind-blowing fusions.
TheJudaica Sound Archives at Florida Atlantic University Libraries invites you to enjoy klezmer music from the past and the present.
The Judaica Sound Archives is proud to feature the beautiful voice of Judy Caplan Ginsburgh. Although much of her work is geared towards children’s music and holiday songs, her clean, clear, lyrical voice performs beautifully when singing cantorial songs, romantic ballads, and folk songs. She is a nationally recognized and multi-award winning performer. She travels extensively to perform at a variety of different of events, appearing in concerts, educational workshops and sing-alongs .
Judy obviously has a passion and a talent for childhood education. She has innovated a number of educational performances and events which engage school-age children with music and song. One of my favorites from her collection is the iParenting 2007 Award winner, You’re Amazing.
Judy has had great success as a recording artist since 1981. Her award-winning, best-selling recordings for Jewish families feature familiar songs which have been sung for years in Jewish schools and homes. Her interactive and educational recordings of music for general audiences have received the highest praises from teachers and parents around the globe.
The Judaica Sound Archives has 11 of her albums in our collection. I know that once you start listening to them you will be emailing me to ask where you can buy the CDs. So before you have to ask. I will tell you.
The Judaica Sound Archives does not sell CDs. If you are interested in purchasing this music please visit Judy Caplan Ginsburgh’s website: www.judymusic.com .
The Judaica Sound Archives at Florida Atlantic University Libraries was delighted when our friends Josh Kun and Roger Bennett told us that they were putting together an album of Tikva Records favorites! As you may remember, the JSA provided many of the LP covers for their book, And You Shall Know Us by the Trail of Our Vinyl, which was published in November 2008.
Now, as part of the Idelsohn Society, they have released the album, Songs for the Jewish-American Jet Set: The Tikva Records Story 1950-1973. To celebrate this accomplishment they have opened a 1950′s style record store right in San Francisco’s Mission District (3191 Mission Street). The store is open for business from December 1st through the end of Hanukkah (December 28).
Of course, we wish them great success. So the Judaica Sound Archives sent them seven cartons of Jewish LPs (many of them on the Tikva label) to be offered at their record store.
Click here to find out more about what they are doing.
In 1990 Jacquie Sussholz produced Yiddish Is Forever, a 3-CD album composed of 48 songs. From songs of praise to songs of love, from songs of heartbreak and sorrow to songs of celebration, Yiddish songs have a special quality that pulls at the heart-strings.
Jacquie Sussholz honors his heritage and recreates an authentic yet up-to-date sound with his music. “My style is soul with passion – I express the spirit of traditional songs, but in arrangements that are modern and exciting.”
Chassidic nigunim and Yiddish popular music often provided a sound track for the lives of Jews who were born in the 20th century. Now fans of Yiddishkeit can enjoy listening to the music of Jacqui Sussholz. The days of a vibrant Yiddish culture may be gone but the music can be preserved for the future so that it will never be lost.