Jews are hardly new to vaudeville. But it is striking how many Jews continue to specialize in vaudeville and variety acts — from clowns to contortionists, jugglers to jesters.
Jews often say goodbye by bursting into a Yiddish song called ?Yoshke Fort Avek.? It was made famous by a character dubbed ?the Jewish Maurice Chevallier.?
Yes, I know, I know:-) But I still get requests for this song, which was Jan Peerce’s best known recording. It actually topped the hit parade in the early 40’s, 1941 I believe it was, and it was the title he gave to his autobiography. The fans of his operatic and cantorial work often roll their eyes, but this song, corny as it admittedly is, with its fractured English (“so be like I…”) its heavily rolled “r”s, and its melodramatic recitation, is best seen against the background of Yiddish theater and vaudeville. Much the same could be said of Sophie Tucker’s “Yiddishe Mama.” A friend of mine, an Orthodox rabbi, used to tear his hair every time he heard it. He hated it, but it was one of Sophie Tucker’s most popular recordings, and is played even today. Both of these records recall another era, in which such sentimental songs were not only accepted, but loved. Remember Molly Goldberg’s extremely popular radio program? All in the same fach.
One of hip-hop’s great strengths, and, frustratingly, part of what makes the art form so much of a generational divider, is the way in which the pursuit of both profundity and vulgarity are so brazenly juxtaposed against one another. The strength of poetic images and complex ideas in great hip-hop lyrics are almost universally embedded in contexts that also celebrate the grotesque, the prurient and the crassly materialistic. It is this carnivalesque quality to the genre that allows great hip-hop artists to touch on places of sublimity and fragile beauty while maintaining a stance of stylized insouciance and audaciously exaggerated strength.