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Jewface
     

Jewface

 
"Perhaps the most offensive album ever made," the cover of Jewface crows, and it's hard to argue with a collection larded with ethnic stereotypes not just Jewish but Irish, too! An impressive selection of hits unheard for a century, Jewface attempts to shed light upon, and rehabilitate somewhat, the nearly forgotten canon of Hebrew "dialect songs" from

Overview

"Perhaps the most offensive album ever made," the cover of Jewface crows, and it's hard to argue with a collection larded with ethnic stereotypes not just Jewish but Irish, too! An impressive selection of hits unheard for a century, Jewface attempts to shed light upon, and rehabilitate somewhat, the nearly forgotten canon of Hebrew "dialect songs" from the early 1900s. It's complicated, but bear with us: Jews, newly successful in the New World, costumed themselves as old-world-style Yiddish-speaking bumpkins, replete with prosthetic noses and thick bankrolls, telling off-color jokes and singing songs, largely at their own expense. An early example of Jewish self-hatred? Not quite; the antiheroes of Jewface -- the Cohen who owes me $97 (in an early Irving Berlin song), the "Yiddisha ball player" and "Oy-oy-oyviator" -- are more like Jewish straw men that the composers and performers gleefully immolate to trumpet their American selves. Like we said, it's complicated. It's also hilarious, clever, and edifying, like a Lenny Bruce routine, and a back door to the history of American popular song. Compiled by Jody Rosen, author of White Christmas: The Story of an American Song, the disc shines a light on the profitable world of ethnic minstrelsy, which included not only the "Heebs" but Irish, Italian, and Chinese variants, and of course, the well-documented phenomenon of blackface. It was a starting point for the careers of Berlin, Eddie Cantor, Fanny Brice, and Belle Baker, among others, and as Rosen's notes profess, an influence on untold golden-age composers. ("When Mose with his Nose Leads the Band" shares six notes of musical DNA with Berlin's "God Bless America"). That such material could, in the expanse of a century, be regarded as pop hits, social anathema, forgotten obscurities, and finally as a kind of lost codex of Jewish identity says a lot about the historical value of Rosen's labors. The gleeful, tuneful, and patently offensive songs say everything else you need to know -- sure to be instigating coronaries all over South Florida come Hanukkah.

Product Details

Release Date:
11/14/2006
Label:
Idelsohn Society
UPC:
0824247014022
catalogNumber:
6

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