Connie Francis

Sings Jewish Favorites

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In addition to her many successful albums of waltzes, pop hits, Broadway show tunes, rock & roll tributes, country & western, Christmas, and children's music, Connie Francis also recorded a series of albums devoted to different ethnic traditions, an important ingredient in her life and work. Born Concetta Rosemarie Franconero in Newark, NJ, she grew up in what she later described as "a totally Jewish neighborhood," where she learned to speak Yiddish fluently. Legend has it she agreed to change her stage name to "Francis" after Arthur Godfrey had difficulty pronouncing "Franconero." Acting on advice from her father, the singer devoted an entire album to "Italian Favorites" and subsequently took on melodies from both Spanish and Jewish traditions. This eventually led to the creation of Hawaiian, Portuguese, Latin American, German, Irish, and catchall "International" Connie Francis albums. The first thing one notices about her "Jewish Favorites" is the bright and brassy early-'60s production with lush orchestral accompaniments and lots of reverb. Then one marvels at the ease with which she expresses herself in this rich dialect, focusing upon two distinctive categories of song. On the one hand there are the high-stepping Jewish dances, some of them centuries old ("Tzena Tzena," "Hava Nagila," and the magnificently Eastern Mediterranean-sounding "Shein Vi de Levone," during which she sings a stunning overdubbed duet with herself). Most of the songs presented here reflect that other aspect of Jewish American culture: the slow, sentimental song ("My Yiddishe Momme," "O Mein Papa," and "Mein Shtetele Belz"). In the final analysis, this is remarkably refined music -- polished and pretty, soulful and sweet.

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