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Fall Movie Season

To start off the fall movie season, i will start writing reviews again. i will write 2 reviews every month, reviewing summer movies, new movies and occasionally classics. My first review of this season will be the Avengers, which i will publish on Friday, September 28. Until then, enjoy what is on my website, and its nice to be back. 



This is a composition for the piano that i wrote inspired by various movies and my trip to Europe this summer

This is a piece about the origins of rock and roll, the Jewish involvement in it, and what it says about Jews in America today. Enjoy!


          As you can see the picture above is an Orthodox Rabbi, rocking his heart out for the sake of Yom Tov and Shabbos Kodesh. Even though Jews haven’t had the biggest part in Rock N’ Roll, as you can see from the picture above, that doesnt mean that we dont like it. Jews have been present in rock in roll ever since the first rabbi decided to start headbanging to some Black Shabbos, i mean Sabbath. Jokes aside, Jews have had an everpresent appearence in rock and roll since it started. One of the biggest rock bands in the 60s near the start of rock and roll was the Turtles. The Turtles consisted of two hard rocking jews by the name of Howard Kaylan and Mark Volman. Their biggest hit was a song by the name of “Happy Together”, which is still popular today. The Turtles are a perfect example of how Jews have influenced rock and roll for many reasons; they have remained in rock and roll without putting in a Jewish influence.
   There are dozens of other Jewish rockers with the same sort of predicament; being in rock and roll without putting in a Jewish influence. From David Lee Roth (Van Halen) to Steven Adler (Guns N Roses), there have been dozens of these sort of Jewish rockers. A great example comes from the Jewish headbanger Scott Ian from Anthrax. In an interview, he is asked, “What being Jewish meant to his family (he was born Scott Rosenfeld)?” He answers “Nothing”. This is a prime example of Jews in Rock N Roll; they are definitely present, but they don’t bring much of the Judiasm to the table. For example, if you were asked, you probably never would have known that Steven Adler, the drummer for Guns N’ Roses, was a Jew. If you were asked, you also probably wouldn’t have known that Hillel Slovak, one of the founding members of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, was also Jewish. Even Joey Ramone, of the Ramones (famous for their hit “Blitzkrieg Bop”) is Jewish, but not a lot of people would know this without a proper internet research. One of the few bands you would know was Jewish would be KISS, (Three of the members, of course including Paul Stanley, who’s real name was Stanley Isan,  Gene Simmons, who’s name he was born with was Chaim Witz ), but when you think of a KISS song (“Rock and Roll All Nite” will usually come to mind), you don’t exactly think of it as a song with a Jewish influence. There is a moment on the show Family Guy where Lois meets Gene Simmons and recognizes him as she used to date him, and there is this great moment where she says “Chaim!?”. Overall, you can see that Rock N Roll is a genre of music that non-Jews have a big part in and Jews have a part in, but don’t exactly influence.
Alright let’s backtrack. If we want to really look at the Jewish influence in Rock N Roll, let’s look at the origin of  Rock N Roll. The term “Rock and Roll”, dates back to the 17th century, a term used to describe the “rocking” and “rolling” of a ship in a storm. Songs were made about this term, and it slowly evolved through the next centuries to what it means now; a description of the genre that came to define pop culture in the latter half of the 20th century. Rock arose in Southern US in the 40s, originating from  from blues and jazz, the first Rock N Roll record was called “Rocket 88” by Jackie Brenson, and some of the first rock n rollers were Bill Haley, Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly, and Chuck Berry. Now of course you are wondering, where did Jews come into play here. As you probably know, even though some do, most artists, at least the famous ones, indeed to not write their own music. Thats where the jews came in. A prime example would in fact be two Jews by the name of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. They were songwriters, Jerry being the lyricist and Stoller being the composer. They wrote songs such as “Hound Dog” for Elvis Presley, along with a bunch of other hits including “Jailhouse Rock”, “Kansas City”, “Stand By Me (with Ben E. King)”, along with many other prominent early rock and roll songs. Other Jews writing hits for rockstars included Doc Pomus, Jerry Wexler, Jerry Ragovy, and Phil Spector. Then the 60s came. Sadly, back room composers were no longer needed as more and more Rock N Rollers began to compose their own music. Still, there remained a Jewish presence in Rock N Roll as very popular artists such as Bob Dylan, Paul Simon (of Simon and Garfunkel), Lou Reed (of the Velvet Underground) and Leonard Cohen (Have you heard “Halleluyah”?).
Now, over the years, Classic Rock N Roll has split into an almost endless pool of sub genres. First things first, Rock originated from blues jazz folk music, country, blues, and soul music.There is alternative rock, Death Metal, Punk rock, Jazz Rock, Nu Metal, Thrash Metal, Indie Rock, Glam Rock, Funk Rock, New Wave, British New Wave, New Wave of the New Wave (new wave with in new wave=New waveception?), Skate Punk, Space Rock (Pink Floyd), Progressive Rock, Progressive Metal, and something called “Cowpunk”. Oi! That wasn’t even supposed to express a feeling, thats actually a sub genre of punk made in the UK. As you can see, there are a ton of genres of Rock and Roll; the important ones are the ones to concentrate on. Punk Rock, a subgenre of rock consisting of a lot of three chord songs that developed in the mid 70s with bands such as The Clash (who have a Jewish Member), The Ramones (Also has a Jewish member, Joey Ramone), and the Sex Pistols (who definitely weren’t Jewish). Another sub genre; Metal was started in the late 60s when bands such as the Beatles (Helter Skelter) and Jimi Hendrix (do I even have to give an example) started playing around with distortion. Some of the first metal bands included Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath. This spawned a ton of subsubgenres such as British New Wave (Iron Maiden), Thrash Metal (Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer, and Anthrax, who’s guitarist Ian Scott is Jewish), and even Progressive metal in the early 90s (Dream Theater and Queensryche). Another major sub genre would be pop rock, which mixes catchy pop choruses with light guitar based rock songs. Pop Rock has been around ever since the seventies, with artists such as Elton John and Billy Joel (Jewish), and more recently, artists such as Maroon 5 (whos singer, Adam Levine was Jewish) and The Fray. There are many other genres not covered here, but no matter how oddball the genre, there are Jews within.
Now lets go back; After learning all of this information about the Jewish people in Rock and Roll, it shows one thing. It acts as a metaphor for assimilation; how we have started doing what everyone else has been doing to “fit in”. Its the reason we haven’t exactly placed our Jewish influence into Rock and Roll but have still remained in it. Its the same reason Jewish kids today eat cheeseburgers and don’t keep Shabbos; they are bored with traditions such as sitting in shul along with other things, and want to try what everyone else is doing; whether it is rock and roll or shoveling down a Double Whammy; it is for the same reason and it is kind of sad. If only, the Jewish people could work on putting our Jewish influence into Rock and Roll, and maybe concentrate on not shoveling down so many Double Whoppers and instead appreciating Judiasm, maybe things would be better for the Jewish people, and we would have a brighter future.


amazing piece. Nuff said

My personal favorite performance of Gershwin’s masterpiece from 1976 in Royal Albert Hall, with Leonard Bernstien actually pulling off the feat of conducting and playing piano at the same time

Im having a sort of a classical jazz fusion posting day as you can tell. Enjoy

Editor’s Note: I wanted to backtrack a little and write this one to one of my favorite composers of all time. 


Rhapsody in Blue

Rhapsody in Blue is a jazz/classical musical composition written by George Gershwin for the solo piano and jazz band in 1924. Although it was originally written for just solo piano and jazz band, the piece is more widely recognized as one of the most popular orchestrated pieces of all time. There are many reasons for this.

            George Gershwin was a Jewish jazz composer that was born on September 26, 1898, and sadly passed away on July 11, 1937. He was most famous for his piece Rhapsody in Blue, but was also very well known for pieces such as “An American In Paris” and his opera “Porgy and Bess”. He was born to the sufficiently Jewish name of Jacob Gershvin when he was born in 19th century Brooklyn, New York, to his Jewish parents who had immigrated from the Ukraine. When he was young, his parents bought his brother, Ira Gershwin, a piano, and to the whole family’s surprise, it was George who started playing it. This was the start of the a prolific life of music for Gershwin, most prominently “Rhapsody in Blue”.  His parents found him a teacher by the name of Charles Hambitzer, who ended up being a mentor to George through the art of teaching him piano and the introduction of the world of classical/jazz music. After Hambitzer’s passing, George found his first job at the mere age of 15 as a performer earning 15 dollars a week as a song plugger for a publishing firm in New York’s Tin Pan Alley.  His first published song was “When You Want Em, You Can’t Get Em, When You Got Em, You Don’t Want Em”. He earned about 5 dollars for that song, which wasn’t much, but in 1919 he finally scored big with his hit song “Swanee” which had words by Irving Caesar. In 1920, George created his first ambitious, experimental piece which was the one act jazz opera “Blue Monday”, which is said to be the forerunner to one of his greatest hits, “Porgy and Bess”. In 1924, George and his brother Ira Gershwin collaborated on their stage musical comedy, “Lady Be Good”.

            Finally, in early 1924, Gershwin was convinced to write what was to become “Rhapsody in Blue”. He was convinced to write it for an anti-jazz concert one of George’s old musical collaborators was throwing, and he wanted Gershwin to write an concerto like piece for the concert in February 1924. Finally, Gershwin agreed to write it, using America as a template for what was to become an extraordinary piece. At first, it was to be called “American Rhapsody”, but the name was changed to “Rhapsody in Blue” by his brother, Ira Gershwin. A few weeks later, the piece was finished and it was passed to his collaborator’s arranger Ferde Grofe, who orchestrated the piece, finishing the orchestration only 8 days before the premiere. On February 12, 1924, “Rhapsody in Blue” premiered at the concert titled “An Experiment in Modern Music” in the Aeolian Hall in New York City, with famous composers such as Sergei Rachmaninoff present. The concert was an incredibly long one, consisting of 26 movements, which made the people in the audience almost lose their patience until Gershwin’s masterpiece was heard for the first time, marking that day in history forever. The piece sold over a million copies in record form, and was played a total of 84 times just by the original band in a span of 3 years.

Analysts still question the fact if it is jazz or classical or a fusion between the two, but in the end, Rhapsody In Blue remains one of the greatest and most widely known pieces known to be written by a Jewish composer, nevertheless any composer. It has been used in films such as Fantasia 2000, Woody Allen’s Manhattan. It has even influenced artists such as Brian Wilson from the Beach Boys, and it is the song used by United Airlines for their commercials and advertising since the 80’s. All in all, this is all incontrovertible proof to the musical prowess to Gershwin’s masterpiece, and one of my favorite pieces of all time, “Rhapsody in Blue”.

The progressive metal band have been known for not falling into the ordinary spectrum of music. They have managed to become the alternative to the alternative type of progressive metal that they play, making them one of the strangest, nevertheless more ear provoking and eye opening bands to listen to. They have been known to play around with their songs in a few several interesting ways, for example one of them being having a song where each line would double in syllables (Having a line be 1 syllable, the next line being 2 syllables, and then the next line being 4 syllables, etc.). However, that is not their most eye opening one. On their most recent album, 10,000 Days, they have the 11:13 minute title track, “10,000 Days”. Two other songs on the album are “Wings For Marie” which is 6:11 seconds, and “Viginti Trees” which is 5:02 seconds. If you will notice, they both add perfectly to 11:13 minutes, and here is the reason why: Play them all by themselves, they are all seperate songs with their own lyrics, but if you play Wings For Marie and subsequently Viginti Trees at the same time 10,000 Days is playing, they will altogether form a whole new song with different lyrics and every thing. If you check it out on this youtube doubler (i only have the last 5 minutes) you can sort of experience the wierd/awesomeness of Tool:

Anyway, hope you enjoyed this Random Music Fact of the Day and keep reading my blog.

Yoni Gottlieb


(The music fact for today isn’t exactly a fact so you describe it, but nevertheless something i found interesting as i have been listening to Bon Iver’s music recently)

The folk band Bon Iver independently released its first album in July of 2007. I specifically put “its” there as, at least in the beginning, Bon Iver only consisted of one person, that being Justin Vernon. Justin Vernon started Bon Iver as a kind of relapse; his previous band had broken up, his girlfriend had broken up with him, while getting mono as a plus, he escaped to his fathers cabin in the woods for an entire winter, and that is where he wrote Bon Iver’s first album: For Emma, Forever Ago. Now before i go into details, the name Bon Iver came from a TV show Justin was watching while in the cabin, which depicted a bunch of Alaskan citizens who would greet each other by saying “Bon hiver”. Instead of calling it Bon Hiver (which Vernon thought sounded too much like  hives, which also reminded him of how he was sick), Vernon named it “Bon Iver”. Just using an old Silvertone guitar and a simplistic Shure SM57 recording device (at times some other instruments were used such as drums, but it was mainly just the above), Justin recorded Bon Iver’s first album by himself, playing all the instruments, doing all the overdubs, and editing the album all by himself, a pretty impressive feat you don’t see too much, especially when that album is amazing (check it out sometime it is pretty spectacular).

Yoni Gottlieb


PS. 2 months exactly until “The Avengers” comes out