jewish music

Exploring the Roots of One of the World’s Most Famous and Kitschiest Songs

Benjamin Wright

It’s a number that has been sung by many diverse artists: Elvis and Bob Dylan, Connie Francis, Harry Belafonte, Chubby Checker, Allan Sherman, Josephine Baker, Regina Spektor, Dick Dale, Glen Campbell and countless others. Harry Belafonte glorified it. Campbell viewed it as an essential tool to earn extra money playing the wedding and bar mitzvah circuit when he first arrived in Los Angeles. Dylan’s version, scholar and music critic Josh Kun explains in the documentary, “is an embrace and a refusal. It’s the smartest song about Jewish identity I’ve ever heard and it only lasts 30 seconds.” Sherman mocked it as he celebrated it, singing “Harvey and Sheila.”

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