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Popular Music

The Indomitable Jewish Ballerina Who Inspired a Timeless Love Song

In 1944, at the height of the worst carnage the world has known, a mother in Budapest, Hungary, put her only son, then seven years old, out on the street with a pillow, a last morsel of bread, and the boy’s baptismal certificate. The mother was Jewish, the son Catholic.

Fifty years later the son, Cesare Frustaci—by that time an American citizen with a family of his own—contributed a video-taped oral history to Yale University and then sent the tape to author Germaine Shames. It told the story of his mother, ballerina Margit Wolf, who was banished from the stage by Mussolini only to inspire a timeless love song and then fade from history without a trace.

Lauren Interviews Lauren

Singer-songwriter-humorist Lauren Mayer reflects on Hanukkah, Christmas, family, growing up a Jew in Orange County and how all this informs her own, artistic process. May you enjoy this in depth interview conducted by… herself.

What inspired you to write “Latkes, Shmatkes”?

Two years ago NPR did a program on Christmas music, and their expert was talking about how secular songs, like “Frosty The Snowman,” became classics, and then he said, “Some songs should never become classics, like this one”— and used an old recording of mine as an example. It was a novelty song I’d written and recorded years ago, “The Fruitcake That Ate New Jersey,” and when I wrote in to ask how they found it, they ended up interviewing me. I joked that now I was part of the great tradition of Jewish songwriters who create Christmas music, and I really should do a Chanukah album. Once I said it, I realized it could be a fun idea.

Helen Reddy’s "I Am Woman" tops the charts

December 9, 1972

“I Am Woman” was the only song Reddy would ever write, but it was enough for millions of listeners.

Sophie Tucker: “You’re Gonna Miss Me, Honey”

One hundred and one years ago today, Sophie Tucker sang those words from “Some of These Days” onto a four minute cylinder recording device. It became her signature song, and toward the end of her career she guessed that she had sung it over 45,000 times.

“Dinah Shore Show” debuts on NBC radio

August 6, 1939

A quintessential American girl, Dinah Shore mixed song and talk on the airwaves for over 50 years.

Amy Winehouse dead at 27

Today British singer Amy Winehouse passed away at the age of 27. She was found dead in her home in London. The cause of death is yet unknown, but considering Amy Winehouse's very public struggle with substance abuse and mental illness, there is an almost universal assumption that her death was somehow substance-related.

Carolyn Leigh inducted into Songwriters Hall of Fame

January 1, 1985

Songwriter Carolyn Leigh, who wrote hundreds of tunes for Broadway, TV and film and was nominated for two Tony awards, was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.

Hannah Block, 1913 - 2009

Little can be said about Hannah Block that hasn't already been said many times over. She was a grand dame whose influence radiated far beyond her petite frame.

It wasn't so much what the lady did – although she did much in her 96 years. It is what she meant to Wilmington.

Ruby Blue, 1918 - 2008

Ruby Blue, 89, the inspirational yoga teacher regarded by many in Washington, D.C. and elsewhere around the world as their guru died after a short illness on June 8, 2008.

At the age of 86, Ruby finally agreed to be anointed a swami, a Hindu honorary title meaning teacher or master. Given the Indian name of Neeladevi by her guru in the late l960s, she became Swami Neeladevananda at her investiture in Orleans, France in 2005. Neeladevi or Neeladevananda, Ruby Blue always remained a Jew and lit sabbath candles every Friday night.

Behind "Chagaga" by the Tichel Cuties

My friend Becca, along with some of her Orthodox Jewish Day School friends/co-tichel cuties created a pretty intense fusion of Lady Gaga and traditional Orthodox concepts (the wearing of the tichel – garb for married women, preparing for Shabbat, and the waiting for the Messiah). This is not a likely combination so that’s probably why it has been getting so much attention in the blogosphere, both positive and negative.

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Jewish Women's Archive. "Popular Music." (Viewed on January 28, 2015) <http://jwa.org/topics/popular-music>.

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