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Say it With Music
Save My People
SAY IT WITH MUSIC (Musical Video Presentation) Lecture Series HARVEY SHELDON
OVERVIEW The greatest of all American exports is music and it is a little known fact that the overwhelming percentage of this music was created by Europe's castaways, and underground culture that was never allowed to become part of the mainstream. By cleverly disguising their indentity, changing their names, working in tiny enclaves away from the popular stages of their this tremendously inspIred class of people, The Jews created the basis for the majority of popular American music. Using their ethnic melodic roots and infusing bountiful new ideas these resourceful Jewish immigants helped overwhelm the predominately European culture that dominated music in the early part of the twentieth century.
The newly arrived Jewish immigrants from Russia and the next generation created the first popular American songs, Broadway Musicals, as well as soundtracks and Jazz while building the cornerstone of the music and movie business. America's only contribution to the fine arts was created and invented by America's newest citizens, Russian Jewish imigrants...The Broadway Musical Comedy,inspired from the Yiddish theater.
The first Jews began immigrating to the United States in the 1650's and by the 1820's the majority of them lived in the south. Music atthe time was passed along from each generation by memory and the Jews were exceptional at keeping their culture vibrant. Music, when writing goes from left to right while Hebrew is written from right to left as a result very little Jewish music was recorded on paper. As the Jews assimilated into the evolving Americana; their culture mingled with that of others, particularly another immigrant group, African Negroes. The first published Jewish song in America was distributed in the 1830's out of Philadelphia. A very popular song written by Louis Gottschalk combined his melodies and instincts with that of the Creole populous of the delta south. Gottschaulk's composition is considered to be the first ever using Negroe colloquialisms. The collaboration between Jews and blacks would have a humble beginning but and overwhelming effect on music worldwide.
The 1880's was a time of ethnic stereotyping. Mexicans were portrayed as gamblers, Irish as drunks, Italians as romantics, Germans as socialists, Negroes ate watermelon, and Jews were ruthless bussinessmen. It was easy to discriminate using those unfortunate images and the Jews were guared against them. Many Jew had migrated north and hit the small stages yearning to create their own music. In 1881 play "Samuel of Posen" became a landmark productionj (it was made into a movie in 1910.) Ludwig Englander, an influential composer immigrated to the U.S. and brought with him his operettas, but still wrote in a European style.
By the late 1880's stage plays began to flourish and at the time much of the popula music was predominately Irish. David Braham (his real last name was Abraham but changed it so not to appear to be Jewish) took the oportunity to write with Irish composers as away to make a name for himself. As he evolved musically he partnered with Edward Harrigan which became a musical dynasty.Braham and Harrigan captured the New York street life vividly with their sad ballads.
In Europe the musical climate was changing as well. The Jews mingled with the gypsies througout the continent and they found thousands of ways to make music new, even if the lyrics were based on biblical text or Shakespearean themes. How ever there was no formal traditional place for education. That changed in 1862 when middle class Russian Jews in St. Petersberg, were allowed to attend a musical university. Five milion Jews lived in area called the 'Pale of Settlement.' When they graduated they had a meal ticket to a career as a symphony musician. They went 'beyond the pale', which is an expression we still use today. Jews were aware of the transient nature of their existence and many virtuoso performers were produced including the great violinist Jascha Heifitz. The younger musicians transferred their affection for the piano to the violin because of its mobility. Legend has it that "It's much easier to run with a violin than it is with a piano.
The path for Jewish musicians from the Ukraine went through Brody, Austria a Galacian town where the Yiddish Theater Broder in Jassy, Romania flourished. Neither of these paths had been established as a pipelne to America, but a trend among the Jews worldwide was emerging. The were finally beoming able to enter the arena of popular music, even if at first it was in minor roles. America would become their true home. The stage was set for a musical and cultural revolution.
At the turn of the 2oth century America didn't have its own original musical voice. The symphonies were doinated by classical German musicians, producers and businessmen. However the avent of songbooks, sheet music and the phonodisc offered incredible opportunities for new talents and music, and the Jews knew this. The music publishers who once shunned Jewish compositions suddenly had competition from eager entrepeneurs who wanted to take advantage of the new technology and the American public's hunger for exciting new music.
In 1900 on West 28th street between Broadway and 6th street in New York city anyone who wandered by would recognize a poor urban brick landscape but they could also hear dozens of pianos as hungry songwriters tapped away at their craft to write new sogs for the music publishers and performers. Incestuous theft of melodies among the songwriters was rampant and caused a curious reaction. The pianists began stuffing newspapers under the keys so their melodies would not be audible for any great distance and would be safe from theft. Piano playing in this style sonded like hittig a tin pan.
A controversial opportuntist figure at the time, Monroe H. Rosenthal wrote a newspaper article about this sensation and called it 'tin pan alley'. Many others at the time claim that the term was first created by Harry VonTilzer, from whom Rosenfeld stole the title, but that was a semantic debate. The fact remained that amazing music was being culled from the red brown tenement in the Big Apple. Many fabulous and classic pop songs were written in Tin Pan Alley, including "TAKE ME OUT TO THEBALL GAME". "I'LL BE WITH YOU IN APPLE BLOSSOM TIME", and "SWEET ADELINE."
In the beginning the songs were in waltz time, a concession to the Germans in the business. But soon enough 3/4 time signatures were appearing and for the first time Jews began writing music that would be swinging and with passion and filled with emotion, no longer to the dictates of the German producers. The Jews now had the freedom to choose any rhythm they preferred. The influence of the American Free Enterprise-CapItalistic system now decided not the dictates of what the Germans wanted. Finally America had its own original music.
By 1906 Flo Ziegfield, an impresario and entrepreneur revolutionized the live performances of Broadway musical shows with lavish productions featuring beautiful women, wearing exquisite costumes and having lavish and dynamic stage sets. He nurtured talents like Eddie Cantor, Ruth Etting, Ruby Keeler, Marilyn Miller, Fanny Brice and gave Irving Berlin his biggest break from the Yiddish Theater, when he hired him to write the music and words for his Broadway musical revues. The talent were all Jewish.
The American musical 'revolution' had five key composers of Jewishorigin, if you include the lyricist and the musician as one. They were Irving Berlin, Jerome Kern, George and Ira Gershwin, Rodgers and Hart, and Harold Arlen. By telling their stories, and how they said it with music and words, we all will see how this magnificent era changed what America loved and the world embraced their music forever.
THE GREAT COMPOSERS
Irving Berlin's career took off when he was a smash in the Ziegfield Follieswith "Alexander's Rag Time Band" (1911) and he went on to become one of the greatest songwriters in history. His songs include "God Bless America", "White Christmas", Easter Parade", "A Pretty Girl Is Like A Melody", "Puttin On The Ritz", Dancing Cheek To Cheek", 'There's No Business LiShow Business" and major hit Broadway musicals and Hollywood musicals with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rodgers.
Berlin could not read or write music and could not play the piano. Rather than share the musical credits, he hired musical secretaries to write and compose the music to his lyrics. Berlin was able to afford this because of the financial rewards from "Alexander's Rag Time Band". Berlin added to his wealth and profit margins, became his own publisher and built his own theater. Simply Berlin was a astute business man and shared his wealth and to the Girl Scouts of America, All financial proceeds of royalties of "God Bless America", millions of dollars have gone to the Girl Scouts, and to Jewish Charities. He encouraged, and with 100 per cent Jewish Financing and brought the great French songwriter Cole Porter back home to America.
An American Jew of European descent he became frustrated with the invisible barrier to his new music. He went to England and found an audience for his new musical works. When he returned to New York the theater owners were friendlier. Kern after a few years of having hit Broadway musicals composed the first truly American Musical, Showboat (1927) and envisioned music as more soulful and meaningful art form, derived from his heritage,roots and influence of Jewish music.
Kern composd thirty seven hit Broadway musicals during his illustrious career and left behind one of the largest musical catalogs in recorded history. Jerome Kern became and still remains, because no one has been able to even challenge the musical talents, as THE DEAN OF AMERICAN MUSIC.
GEORGE AND IRA GERSHWIN
George Gershwin of Russian Jewish heritage who idolized Jerome Kern had his first hit and his biggest of his entire career as did Al Jolson with "Swanee", in 1916. He worked primarily with his lyricist brother Ira but wrote complete scores as well as songs. In 1924 he composed "Rhapsody in Blue" it was a symphonic Jazz composition performed by a symphony orchestra, conducted by the King of Jazz, Paul Whiteman. Gershwin continued to create Jazz Classical music that would influence the classical composers of Europe and in America.
Gershwin introduced Afro Cuban Music to America and toured the country and conducted a full symphony orchestra performing this new music and America would be dancing to the Rhumba, and the Mambo and this later was introduced into Jazz music. Gershwin would create the first Jazz Opera "Porgy and Bess" and finding music for this from his influence and heritage of Jewish music. Gershwin had 28 smash hit Broadwayshows and hit songs from George White Musical Revues on Broadway.
George moved to Hollywood with his brother to enter the movie business and continued to have a multitude of hit songs. Unfortunately a brain tumor ended his life at the age of thirty nine.
RODGERS AND HART
Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart began a magical songwriting team that created more than 900 songs for seventy Hit Broadway musicals. The greatest singers of all time, Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennet, Judy Garland, Ella Fitzgerld and Jazz groups and the big bands, all believed they wrotethe hippest, coolest, greatest songs of all time.
RODGERS AND HAMMERSTEIN
When Hart passed away Rodgers teamed up with Oscar Hammerstein II and they continued to have no less than 6 Record breaking hit Broadway musicals and the same Broadway shows would be smash record breaking Hollywood musicals. Rodgers, Hart and Hammersetein II were Jewish.
A resident composer at the Cotton Club in Harlem, showcasing an all black singers and big bands. Arlen served as a song writer and music arranger for the black singers and the big bands. He wrote signature songs for Billy Eckstine, Lena Horne, Ethel Waters, Billy Holliday and many others. Arlen combined the work of blues and Jazz with the influence of Jewish music, from the music his father performed as a Jewish cantor in synagogue services. Arlen musical hit creations were "Stormy Weather", "The Man That Got Away", "Over The Rainbow" "That Old Black Magic" and many more hits that made Jazz very popular.
These great Jewish - American composers broke all the European rules and created the future. During this fertile time the Jewish lyricists and composers took their lyrics and music to black musicians they admired and championed their cause. Blues had been the source of amazing performances and since it shared a similar music form to traditional Jewish music it was a natural match. From this partnership Jazz was created. This was a musical historical time and in reality it was a Musical Marriage, each influencing each other's music.
It is often thought and said by those who are musically ignorant, from musicians, and from those music columnists, that Jazz was solely a black Negro creation, That is a myth. When looking at the writers of the original Jazz compositions, it should be noted that it was virtually over 90 per cent of them were Jewish. The performers, singers, musicians were 90 per cent JEWISH. It was a unique musical marriage.
In 1934 when Benny Goodman got them dancing and dancing in the aisles in theaters as he was launching the Big 'Swing' Band Era and America wasthe envy of the world. Say It With Music is a celebration of the underground musical champions who came from Europe, the Jewish immigrants kept their culture, collaborated with others and created the greatest musical revolution ever in the U.S.A. Isn't it amazing how many of them were JEWISH?