The Secret Jewish History of Aerosmith

Mel Brooks and Jewish Drummer Forged Hard Rock History

Kvetch This Way: Aerosmith’s front man, Steven Tyler, isn’t Jewish, but a surprising amount of the band’s history is.
Getty Images
Kvetch This Way: Aerosmith’s front man, Steven Tyler, isn’t Jewish, but a surprising amount of the band’s history is.

By Seth Rogovoy

Published November 13, 2013, issue of November 15, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

The band Aerosmith is riding high on the global release of “Aerosmith: Rock For The Rising Sun,” a documentary that recounts the story of the rock band’s tour of Japan in the wake of the devastating March 11, 2011, earthquake and tsunami that caused the meltdown of the Fukushima nuclear plant. The movie follows the 43-year-old band on tour, combining live concert footage with behind-the-scenes glimpses and interviews with band members.

As with every Aerosmith concert, the film climaxes with a live version of “Walk This Way,” the song that made the American hard-rock band’s career not once, but twice: the first time propelling the band into the hard-rock pantheon in the mid-1970s, and the second time injecting some much-needed life support into a band that, by 1986, seemed to have been rendered musically irrelevant.

Aerosmith was founded in 1970 when a then-drummer named Steve Tyler - a native of Yonkers, N.Y., who had moved to Boston – stumbled upon guitarist Joe Perry and bassist Tom Hamilton at a gig in New Hampshire. Tyler had found the missing pieces of a band he wanted to form around himself as lead singer.

Tyler recruited a drummer named Joey Kramer, who was attending Berklee School of Music, to hit the skins. Brad Whitford joined the group soon after as the second guitarist, and thus coalesced the group’s main lineup, which, with a few short-term exceptions, has remained in place ever since.

It was Kramer, a Jewish kid from the Bronx, who christened the band Aerosmith, which was simply a nonsensical word he made up, inspired by Harry Nilsson’s 1968 album “Aerial Ballet.”

The group was signed to Columbia Records in 1972, but its first two albums failed to connect with a large audience. It wasn’t until “Toys in the Attic,” its third album, was released in 1975, that Aerosmith became a big deal. And the biggest deal on that record was “Walk This Way,” its first single to crack the top 10, making the band a household name and promoting it to the status of stadium headliner.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Law professor Dan Markel waited a shocking 19 minutes for an ambulance as he lay dying after being ambushed in his driveway. Read the stunning 911 transcript as neighbor pleaded for help.
  • Happy birthday to the Boy Who Lived! July 31 marks the day that Harry Potter — and his creator, J.K. Rowling — first entered the world. Harry is a loyal Gryffindorian, a matchless wizard, a native Parseltongue speaker, and…a Jew?
  • "Orwell would side with Israel for building a flourishing democracy, rather than Hamas, which imposed a floundering dictatorship. He would applaud the IDF, which warns civilians before bombing them in a justified war, not Hamas terrorists who cower behind their own civilians, target neighboring civilians, and planned to swarm civilian settlements on the Jewish New Year." Read Gil Troy's response to Daniel May's opinion piece:
  • "My dear Penelope, when you accuse Israel of committing 'genocide,' do you actually know what you are talking about?"
  • What's for #Shabbat dinner? Try Molly Yeh's coconut quinoa with dates and nuts. Recipe here:
  • Can animals suffer from PTSD?
  • Is anti-Zionism the new anti-Semitism?
  • "I thought I was the only Jew on a Harley Davidson, but I was wrong." — Gil Paul, member of the Hillel's Angels. http://jd.fo/g4cjH
  • “This is a dangerous region, even for people who don’t live there and say, merely express the mildest of concern about the humanitarian tragedy of civilians who have nothing to do with the warring factions, only to catch a rash of *** (bleeped) from everyone who went to your bar mitzvah! Statute of limitations! Look, a $50 savings bond does not buy you a lifetime of criticism.”
  • That sound you hear? That's your childhood going up in smoke.
  • "My husband has been offered a terrific new job in a decent-sized Midwestern city. This is mostly great, except for the fact that we will have to leave our beloved NYC, where one can feel Jewish without trying very hard. He is half-Jewish and was raised with a fair amount of Judaism and respect for our tradition though ultimately he doesn’t feel Jewish in that Larry David sort of way like I do. So, he thinks I am nuts for hesitating to move to this new essentially Jew-less city. Oh, did I mention I am pregnant? Seesaw, this concern of mine is real, right? There is something to being surrounded by Jews, no? What should we do?"
  • "Orwell described the cliches of politics as 'packets of aspirin ready at the elbow.' Israel's 'right to defense' is a harder narcotic."
  • From Gene Simmons to Pink — Meet the Jews who rock:
  • The images, which have since been deleted, were captioned: “Israel is the last frontier of the free world."
  • As J Street backs Israel's operation in Gaza, does it risk losing grassroots support?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.