Various Artists

From Avenue A to the Great White Way: Yiddish & American Popular Songs From 1914-1950

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This carefully selected and sequenced compilation of music from the Sony Music vaults traces the influence of Jewish theater music on American popular music. Over half of it consists of songs sung in Yiddish; the rest display the impact of such songs on the mainstream in the first half of the 20th century. Yiddish stars like David Medoff, Molly Picon, Peisachke Burstein, and Abe Moskowitz have several selections early on, and some of them show that the intermingling of the Yiddish theater and Tin Pan Alley was not a one-way street. Burstein's "Whoopee" comments on the popular 1920s song "Makin' Whoopee," which had been introduced by Eddie Cantor in the Broadway musical Whoopee, while Medoff's "Gevald! Di Bananas (Help! The Bananas)" is a comic gloss on "Yes! We Have No Bananas." The 1930s hit "Bei Mir Bist Du Schon (To Me You Are So Beautiful)" was famously adapted from a Yiddish theater song; it is presented here in a cover version by Belle Baker that competed with the most popular one by the Andrews Sisters. The second disc tends more toward English lyrics and performers who looked beyond Jewish audiences. Particularly notable are two previously unreleased recordings by Al Jolson that seem only barely relevant. (Jolson was Jewish, but more removed than such peers as Cantor and Fanny Brice from the influence of Yiddish music.) By the end of the disc, there are examples of Yiddish-styled songs from swing bands like those led by Benny Goodman (whose clarinet, in this context, is highly reminiscent of klezmer music) and Gene Krupa. Still, the influence is clear, for instance, as "Der Shtiller Bulgar (The Quiet Bulgar)" can be recognized as the source for the swing era hit "And the Angels Sing." The album is a historical document that is also highly listenable.

Track Listing - Disc 2

Title/Composer Performer Time
1 3:26
3 2:35
4 3:04
5 3:15
6 2:52
8 2:41
9 2:59
12 3:09
13 2:24
15 2:53
16 0:33
17 2:58
19 3:18
20 3:23
21 2:36
22 2:55
23 2:58
24 3:18
25 2:51
blue highlight denotes track pick