Tuesday, October 31, 2006

"Jewface"


Long forgotten, self depreciating - some would say self hating - Jewish humour and song from the vaudeville era is now availabe on a new CD "Jewface".

Playing on Jewish stereo-types, this music by Jews for Jews includes such items as a 1916 Irving Berlin number, “Cohen Owes Me Ninety-Seven Dollars,” - concerning a businessman on his deathbed who cannot stop fretting over his unrepaid i.o.u.’s. -, “When Mose With His Nose Leads the Band,” from 1906, and “Under the Matzos Tree,” a 1907 song with lyrics like “Listen to your Abie, baby, Abie, come out in the moonlight with me.”

Long suppressed as tasteless and an embarrasement by Jews as they left the immigrant ghettos, even after a century, the music carries the potential to shock. “My Yiddisha Mammy,” a 1922 riff on Al Jolson’s “Mammy,” written by Eddie Cantor and others, may offend contemporary Jews and African-Americans equally with lyrics like these:

I’ve got a mammy,
But she don’t come from Alabammy.
Her heart is filled with love and real sentiment,
Her cabin door is in a Bronx tenement.

For a complete review see this article in the New York Times.

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