Join 3,422 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Song of Songs
April 15, 2011 12:29 AM   Subscribe

Tablet Magazine has published a list of The 100 Greatest Jewish Songs

Tablet's response to the inevitably strong reactions.

Other related articles

Previously on metafilter
posted by beisny (64 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
Heh.

"Lemme guess — Hava Nagila, Highway 61, Adam Sandler…"
posted by klangklangston at 12:33 AM on April 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


There's a book somewhere by a Rabbinical scholar (or someone claiming to be) that Dylan is literally the Messiah. I see no reason to doubt that.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 12:41 AM on April 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Abel Meeropol—who would later adopt Ethel and Julius Rosenberg’s two sons

Whoa. I never realized he was that close to the subject matter of "Strange Fruit." Damn.
posted by Sys Rq at 12:41 AM on April 15, 2011


Jody Rosen is a great rock critic, and this is a solid list. His comment on Somewhere over a Rainbow dovetails really nicely into Rushdie's essay about it .
posted by PinkMoose at 12:46 AM on April 15, 2011


His comment on Somewhere over a Rainbow dovetails really nicely into Rushdie's essay about it .

I've never read this essay and can't seem to find it online. If someone finds a link, please post it.
posted by beisny at 12:54 AM on April 15, 2011


Two essays on the Wizard of Oz, and a short story, are collected in his small BFI book about the movie.
posted by PinkMoose at 1:05 AM on April 15, 2011


Three songs, off the top of my head, obviously missing:

1.) Where is everyone's favorite, that masterpiece "Lick It Up," co-written by Paul Stanley and recorded by KISS? If that doesn't make you think of tikkun olan, what else would?

2.) Oh wait, there another overlooked 1970's kosher classic: Ben, Michael Jackson's love song to a rat, which was co-written by Walter Scharf. If you compare the amazing imagery with that of other works, like Art Spiegelman's Maus, the effect is unforgettable and overpowering.

3.) And where's Jerry Lewis' annual TV rendition of You'll Never Walk Alone? These performances of that Rogers and Hammerstein classic are an example what makes that big lug so beloved by every nation.
posted by Yakuman at 1:27 AM on April 15, 2011


More generally, as a non-Zionist Jew, I have to appreciate the even-handed approach this magazine seems to take to the issue. Why didn't I know about Tablet before? Maybe because I've been hiding scared under the covers ever since I found out what my "brethren" are doing to other people over there?

Anyway, underneath all the lovely musical commentary, what a wonderfully dishy who's-who of Jews in the music biz!
posted by Mooseli at 1:42 AM on April 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


And what's John Zorn, chopped liver?
posted by No-sword at 2:27 AM on April 15, 2011 [6 favorites]


I am disappointed by the lack of any songs by 3rd Bass. Though the entry on "Funkytown" (#90) has irrevocably changed how I will think of Jerusalem. "Across the world this weekend, Christians prepare for Palm Sunday, commerating Jesus' entry into Funkytown."
posted by KingEdRa at 3:17 AM on April 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


Yes. John Zorn is chopped liver.
posted by zaelic at 3:18 AM on April 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


Apparently the entire jazz genre is strongly influenced by Yiddish folk melodies, which African-American jazz musicians would have overheard Jewish migrants singing in the Northern cities they had both moved to around the turn of last century. There's a video floating around somewhere of a music professor demonstrating the similarity.
posted by acb at 3:46 AM on April 15, 2011


100. “Loser” (1993)

Technically speaking, Beck Hansen is barely Jewish. (His maternal grandmother was a tribe-member.) His 1993 debut single, though—now that’s Jewish. Often described as a song of Gen X malaise, “Loser” is actually a headier concoction: some folk, some hip-hop, and some Dylanesque doggerel, all mashed-up with the nebbishy neurosis of Alexander Portnoy and Alvy Singer. It’s not a “slacker anthem”; it’s a schlemiel’s lament. (JR)


I started and stopped reading at 100.
posted by therubettes at 3:49 AM on April 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Maybe people wouldn't accuse jews of having their hands in so many pots if they didn't try to claim credit for so many things only tangentially related to them.

Disclaimer: I'm jewish.
posted by Betty_effn_White at 4:09 AM on April 15, 2011


I am shocked that this list does not come equipped with Big Jim Slade.
posted by delfin at 4:21 AM on April 15, 2011


Bah! No NOFX The Brews? I could swear they were the boys sportin' anti swastika tattoos.
posted by Nanukthedog at 4:28 AM on April 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


And what's John Zorn, chopped liver?

I'm kinda with you on that, except that Zorn hasn't written any songs, that I'm aware of. And this is a list of songs.

Otherwise... what? No zaelic?
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:57 AM on April 15, 2011


Yo Ya is only number 66? KAVERETH GOT ROBBED!
posted by wittgenstein at 5:08 AM on April 15, 2011


No Allan Sherman? Feh.
posted by Bromius at 5:11 AM on April 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


There's a book somewhere by a Rabbinical scholar (or someone claiming to be) that Dylan is literally the Messiah. I see no reason to doubt that.

I saw him live a few years ago, a gig that could be charitably described as 'pissing on your fans'. Maybe it's a test for the faithful or something, but that's my reason why he isn't the messiah.
posted by Infinite Jest at 5:13 AM on April 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


They forgot Regina Spektor!
posted by John Cohen at 5:15 AM on April 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


No Allan Sherman? Feh.

Number 74.

Interesting list, though seems to be stretching at times - it's a Jewish song if either (one of) the writer(s), (one of) the performer(s), or the producer is Jewish?
posted by Infinite Jest at 5:19 AM on April 15, 2011


Right — so it's like Canadian content only different.
posted by nebulawindphone at 5:23 AM on April 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Infinite Jest: " Interesting list, though seems to be stretching at times - it's a Jewish song if either (one of) the writer(s), (one of) the performer(s), or the producer is Jewish?"

We're apparently everywhere. Half the list seems like a huge stretch to me.

After reading the list I looked for a decent version of Avinu Malkeinu this morning on Youtube. Couldn't find anything that did it justice.
posted by zarq at 5:26 AM on April 15, 2011


Oh man, I had forgotten how utterly perfect Hot Butter's version of Popcorn was. Bars in my area may want to disconnect their jukeboxes from the internet this weekend.
posted by uncleozzy at 5:33 AM on April 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


I've got the fever, the Channukah fever...
posted by unixrat at 5:34 AM on April 15, 2011


They had the Beastie Boys, but not for Fight For Your Right (To Party!). Okay, technically it was mentioned in the header but still. A shandeh un a charpeh, Tablet, a shame and a disgrace.
posted by tommasz at 5:58 AM on April 15, 2011


I'm kinda with you on that, except that Zorn hasn't written any songs, that I'm aware of. And this is a list of songs.

Aren't you forgetting the unforgettable poetry of his collaborations with Yamataka Eye?
WAAARGHLBARLGHBLARGHLB
BLBLLBAAAAARUUUUUUGH
WARGHLBERGGGHGHERGGG
posted by No-sword at 6:14 AM on April 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


Avinu Malkeinu (sung by the right cantor) sends chills up my spine right along with Kol Nidre.

The first time I heard both of them, I was *stunned* in my chair for a good twenty minutes afterwards. They moved this little convert-to-be in ways I've never been moved by liturgical music before.
posted by palabradot at 6:41 AM on April 15, 2011


What, nothing by Schmekel?
posted by exogenous at 7:11 AM on April 15, 2011


It bothers me that Paul Simon only shows up at 76, and Garfunkel not at all. Realistically, they should come out ahead of the Beastie Boys, right?
posted by papayaninja at 7:14 AM on April 15, 2011


I might have missed it but I didn't see The Brews by NOFX.

I also didn't see Unetana Tokef which is the absolute heart of the Yom Kippur service.
posted by PenDevil at 7:25 AM on April 15, 2011


...and Garfunkel not at all.

My little Art Garfunkel story.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:29 AM on April 15, 2011


Some of these seem to be reaching pretty hard. As nebulawindphone points out, it's kind of like people looking for the Canadian everywhere. I'm pretty sure David Rakoff's story in this This American Life show refers to finding a Jewish Canadian in popular culture as "the jackpot".

But I always liked the case of Andrea Martin, from SCTV. Canadian Jew, right? Nope, Armenian from Maine. So close.
posted by benito.strauss at 7:34 AM on April 15, 2011


But I always liked the case of Andrea Martin, from SCTV. Canadian Jew, right? Nope, Armenian from Maine. So close.

If Canada is funny because it's like-America-only-not-quite, and Maine falls short of Canada, is Maine like-like-America-only-not-quite-only-not-quite? Do the two cancel each other out, or make it into some kind of über-Canada?
posted by acb at 7:38 AM on April 15, 2011


Fails to distinguish between songs that are inherently Jewish (about Jewish subjects) and songs written or performed by people who are or have been Jewish.

Bagels are "Jewish" and yet H and H bagel company ( NY) is one of the biggest retailers of bagels in the metropolitan region, and it owned by a non-Jewish family.
A Japanese restaurant in my area serves Japanese food but is owned by a family from Taiwan.

Philip Roth is a Jewish writer by birth but also writes about Jewishness. Norman Mailer was Jewish by birth and did not.
Cantors all sing Jewish music. Eddie Cantor did not but was Jewish. You can lead a rabbi to water but you can not make him cantor.
posted by Postroad at 7:51 AM on April 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


Should California Love be on the list?
posted by Threeway Handshake at 7:58 AM on April 15, 2011


Hava Naglila is my third most detested song of all time, after "Girl From Ipanema" and "Killing Me Softly". Apropos of nothing much.
posted by Decani at 8:11 AM on April 15, 2011


Naglila? Whut?
posted by Decani at 8:11 AM on April 15, 2011


No KISS?
posted by electroboy at 8:18 AM on April 15, 2011


Apropos of nothing much.

Truer words were never spoken.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:19 AM on April 15, 2011


Cantors all sing Jewish music. Eddie Cantor did not but was Jewish. You can lead a rabbi to water but you can not make him cantor.

Though the speculation on how the authors' Jewish heritage/culture influenced the songs is the interesting part, IMHO. Over The Rainbow and Funkytown being about (the idea of) Israel? Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer about the Jewish outsider experience? I find that sort of thing fascinating, alongside, for example, whether Alan Turing's homosexuality shaped the idea of the Turing Test, or whether Asperger's Syndrome or living in London was a greater influence on Gary Numan's Are Friends Electric?
posted by acb at 8:27 AM on April 15, 2011


...Funkytown being about (the idea of) Israel?

Well, the Arabs there had some funky music going on, no question...
posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:28 AM on April 15, 2011


Funkytown was about Minneapolis. I asked Steven Grenberg and he told me.
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:40 AM on April 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Funkytown was about Minneapolis.

That's true. They got plants and lights and shit. Just ask Morris Day.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:43 AM on April 15, 2011


Funkytown was about Minneapolis. I asked Steven Grenberg and he told me.

Death of the Author.
posted by acb at 8:45 AM on April 15, 2011


No Mickey Katz? Buncha putzes.
posted by jonmc at 8:53 AM on April 15, 2011


No Diamond Dave?
posted by Hoopo at 9:08 AM on April 15, 2011


And that "Walk This Way" inclusion? That's a stretch. If we're going to use producers as the criteria for making a song "Jewish", there should be much more of Rick Rubin and Phil Spector on this list.
posted by Hoopo at 9:30 AM on April 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Am I the only person in the world who thinks Hallelujah is Leonard Cohen's least interesting song? (Not to mention, the most misunderstood.)
posted by Sys Rq at 11:27 AM on April 15, 2011


Hava Naglila is my third most detested song of all time, after "Girl From Ipanema" and "Killing Me Softly". Apropos of nothing much.

I had to stop after reading this and check whether you could get all three to harmonize. Does that make me a bad person?

(Sadly: no. You're safe, for now.)


Am I the only person in the world who thinks Hallelujah is Leonard Cohen's least interesting song?

A half-assed cover of Hallelujah is still pleasant in a schmaltzy middle-school-dance Righteous-Brothers sort of way. The really dangerous ones for amateurs to attempt are Suzanne and Bird on a Wire, which have astonishingly tedious melodies. Give 'em to someone with no stage presence, and it's like listening to a drugged-out dirge-tempo version of 99 Bottles of Beer On The Wall, only you can't laugh because it's poetry goddammit.
posted by nebulawindphone at 1:26 PM on April 15, 2011


Well, the Arabs there had some funky music going on, no question...

Well, once the sharif was out of their hair, anyway.
posted by ego at 2:24 PM on April 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Hava Naglila is my third most detested song of all time, after "Girl From Ipanema" and "Killing Me Softly". Apropos of nothing much.
I had to stop after reading this and check whether you could get all three to harmonize. Does that make me a bad person? (Sadly: no. You're safe, for now.)


What the hell are you talking about? Of course you can! Here, listen. From left to right in the stereo field, in your given order. If I'd continued into the choruses, it would have fallen apart, but mashups usually just cherry-pick the similar bits anyway.
posted by jake at 2:30 PM on April 15, 2011


They could have picked a million better songs than America for Neil Diamond ...

The really dangerous ones for amateurs to attempt are Suzanne and Bird on a Wire, which have astonishingly tedious melodies. Give 'em to someone with no stage presence, and it's like listening to a drugged-out dirge-tempo version of 99 Bottles of Beer On The Wall, only you can't laugh because it's poetry goddammit.

Interesting. Bird on the Wire and Sisters of Mercy are two of my go-to lullabies. I wonder what my daughter thinks ...

They had the Beastie Boys, but not for Fight For Your Right (To Party!). Okay, technically it was mentioned in the header but still. A shandeh un a charpeh, Tablet, a shame and a disgrace.

The most obvious choice would be Shadrach (Meshach, and Abednago). One of the best songs from their best album, and it's based on the Hebrew bible.

Riddle me this, my brother, can you handle it?
posted by mrgrimm at 3:16 PM on April 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


In other words, mediocre list. C-.
posted by mrgrimm at 3:17 PM on April 15, 2011


I am disappointed by the lack of any songs by 3rd Bass.

Damn straight. Where's Gas Face?!

Kick 'em in the grill, Pete!
posted by mrgrimm at 3:19 PM on April 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


Oh man, actually, I bet Bird on a Wire makes a great lullaby.
posted by nebulawindphone at 3:31 PM on April 15, 2011


Like a baby, stillborn,
like a beast with his horn
I have torn everyone who reached out for me
But I swear by this song
and by all that I have done wrong
I will make it all up to thee


wonderfully sublime.
posted by mrgrimm at 4:02 PM on April 15, 2011


I've long thought "Strange Fruit" was the most important American song of the century.

This Nina Simone http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ktsU01lfzLU performance on piano and voice seems more powerful to me than Billie Holiday's, great as that is. It's impossible to hear without weeping.
posted by lathrop at 5:44 PM on April 15, 2011


I will make it all up to thee

wonderfully sublime.


Yeah, I hear you, but sometimes, I gotta say, ol' Leonard can get just a wee bit too sublime. Heh. Well, I guess he's the only singer/songwriter who can get away with using the word "thee". But there you go: he overplays that biblical hand a little. Still, I'm a fan, for sure. He's a monumental songwriter. A towering figure in the Tower of Song. He can get a little tiresome with his poetry with a capital P, though, right? Just a little. After a few songs, you wanna go hear some Muddy Waters.

Well, I'm glad there's Leonard and Muddy. Love 'em both, really.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 9:30 AM on April 16, 2011


He can get a little tiresome with his poetry with a capital P, though, right?

I liked Leonard Cohen a lot more before I saw this documentary on TV.
posted by Hoopo at 10:47 AM on April 18, 2011


I liked Leonard Cohen a lot more before I saw this documentary on TV.

'Tis on the YouTube.

Fire up Isle of Wight and you'll like him a lot more all over again!

"Oh, it's good to be here alone in front of six hundred thousand people ..."
posted by mrgrimm at 11:35 AM on April 18, 2011


What? That doc is great--as much as a document of Montreal than of Cohen. Here's the whole thing.
posted by Sys Rq at 11:38 AM on April 18, 2011


than as it is
posted by Sys Rq at 11:52 AM on April 18, 2011


« Older A 1970s recording of Mike Oldfield and friends pla...  |  Is Sugar Toxic?... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments