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.
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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.
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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.


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