(photo credit: Courtesy)
The recording is clearly decades old. As the music builds, a tearful, soulful
voice begins to sing the lilting strains of the legendary “My Yiddishe
Is it Fanny Brice? Sophie Tucker? Neither.
Jewish melody is performed by Lady Day, the great Billie Holiday, an
African-American woman whose painful, hard-knock life expressed itself through
Holiday’s stunning rendition of this classic tune is one of dozens
of recordings that visitors to the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San
can listen to at their leisure.
The exhibit entitled “Black Sabbath: The
Secret Musical History of Black-Jewish Relations” celebrates the musical
two oppressed peoples.
The exhibit comes to the CJM courtesy of David
Katznelson, who last year presented CJM’s “Jews on Vinyl.”
show received an impressive 70,000 visitors during its six-month run.
Katznelson, who has a background in producing rock ‘n’ roll, has also
director of outreach and engagement for the Bay Area’s Jewish Community
The exhibit is the result of years of painstaking research,
which often included restoring sound quality to longunheard recordings
in some cases, nearly a century old.
Some of the tunes are light and
frothy, such as Eartha Kitt’s rendition of “Sholem,” an English piece
performed to the orchestrations of “Hava Nagila” As always, she sings in
unmistakable kittenish purr.
There’s also a lovely Fiddler on the Roof
medley offered by the 1960s soul group The Temptations.
They perform in their trademark falsettos, adding a new,
somewhat jazzy dimension to familiar songs like “Sunrise, Sunset” and
Some selections induce chills. For example,
Jimmy Scott’s heartfelt “Exodus” or Johnny Mathis's stunning take on
Nidre.” Both singers literally weep with their voices.
The exhibit will
be on display on CJM’s second floor until March 22, 2011. Museum guests
peruse the many album covers that grace the walls of the comfortable,
room that houses the Black Sabbath exhibit. Or they can sit at any of
listening stations and choose which of the dozens of selections they’d
Black Sabbath also offers an accompanying CD. The 15 CD selections
include the Holiday, Scott and Mathis cuts, as well as Cab Calloway’s
take on “Otta Zoy,” a long-forgotten Yiddish tune. The disc includes a
book that offers valuable back-story information on the singers and
The CD is available in the CJM gift shop, and the museum will ship to
in the world.For more information, visit