The following was adapted with permission from a course Jacobson taught for Hebrew College Online.
American Jews were tremendously active in music in the first half of the twentieth century. According to a study of American musicians published in 1933, at a time when Jews comprised less than 4% of the total United States population, 36% of the players in American “amusement orchestras” were Jews. And in the string sections, the numbers were twice as high! In the world of arts and entertainment, superior talent sometimes overcame racial prejudice.
Johnny Marks wrote
“Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer”
Consider this list, which highlights some of the songs by the great Jewish American composers and lyricists.
- 1823 John Payne (son of Sarah Isaacs) (lyricist), “Home Sweet Home.”
- 1840 Henry Russell, “The Old Arm Chair”
- 1892 Charles K. Harris, “After the Ball is Over”
- 1900 Harry von Tilzer, “A Bird in a Gilded Cage”
- 1908 Albert Von Tilzer, “Take Me out to the Ball Game”
- 1908 Nora Bayes, “Shine on Harvest Moon” (assisted by her husband Jack Norworth)
- 1909 Gus Edwards, “By the Light of the Silvery Moon”
- 1911 Harry von Tilzer, “I Want a Girl Just Like the Girl That Married Dear Old Dad”
- 1911 Irving Berlin, “Alexander’s Ragtime Band”
- 1918 Irving Berlin, “Oh How I Hate to Get Up in the Morning” (from Yip Yip Yaphank)
- 1919 George Gershwin, “Swanee”
- 1922 Gus Kahn (lyricist), “Yes Sir That’s My Baby”
- 1924 George Gershwin, “Fascinatin’ Rhythm,” (from Lady Be Good)
- 1924 George Gershwin, “The Man I Love” (from Lady Be Good)
- 1925 Gus Kahn (lyricist), “Nothing Could be Finer Than to Be in Carolina in the Morning”
- 1927 George Gershwin, Strike Up the Band
- 1927 Jerome Kern, “Old Man River” from Showboat
- 1930 George Gershwin, “Embraceable You” (from Girl Crazy)
- 1930 George Gershwin, “I Got Rhythm” (from Girl Crazy)
- 1935 George Gershwin, “It Ain’t Necessarily So” from Porgy and Bess
- 1935 George Gershwin, “Summertime” from Porgy and Bess
Did you like this article? MyJewishLearning is a not-for-profit organization.