Friday, January 11, 2013

Ben Sidran - There was a fire: Jews, music and the American dream

I reported in this journal before how I became interested in Ben Sidran after hearing Gary Walker of WBGO play a cut from his Dylan Different CD.  I was in my car about 8:30 one morning in December listening to Gary on WBGO saying that Ben would be his guest at 9 AM to talk about his new book

Sidran, B. (2012). There was a fire: Jews, music and the American dream. S.l.: Nardis Books, an imprint of Unlimited Media Ltd.

I had an appointment at 9 AM so I couldn’t listen to the interview, but luckily there was a pod cast of it on  that I heard a few days later.

Before I read the book I didn’t realize how Jews dominated the music business for the last 100 years.  It is obvious that Ben spent much time and effort researching many recording artists of many genres and music executives who were Jewish.  Many of them changed their names so I didn’t realize that so many of them were Jewish.   Barbra Streisand was one of the few Jewish recording artists who did not change her name. He even discusses one of  sensitive topics of Jews singing and writing Christmas songs.  Irving Berlin wrote the famous White Christmas.  Ben does talk about my favorite Jewish recording artist.  It certainly makes sense for a nice Jewish Boy from Wisconsin to write about a nice Jewish boy from neighboring Minnesota.

On a tangent, it is unfortunate that so many secular Jews reject their heritage.  From reading the book many recording artists and music executives were indifferent to their religion and customs.

Since I work in a science/engineering library I can not purchase it for my library.  Hopefully my colleagues at the Institute Jazz Studies at Rutgers will buy it.  I highly recommend it for those interested in the history of any kind of music no matter what religion you observe.

I thank Gary Walker for bringing Ben Sidran to my attention for the second time.  I actually found out about this biography of Ben which I just purchased for my Kindle:

Sidran, B. (2003). Ben Sidran: A life in the music. New York: Taylor Trade Pub.

I am sure that it will be a good read.  I’ll have to review it in Bruce’s Journal after I finish it.

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