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The Song is Not the Same: Jews and American Popular Music.  Josh Kun, ed.  Vol. 8 of The Jewish Role in American Life: An Annual Review, Bruce Zuckerman and Lisa Ansell, eds. ISBN 978-1-5575-3586-3.

Reviewed by Gabriel Solis

9781557535863 - The Song is Not the Same   Jews and American Popular Music

Volume eight of the annual review The Jewish Role in American Life, published by the Casden Institute for the Study of the Jewish Role in American Life at the University of Southern California, is a welcome addition to the general literature on music and Jewish identity. It presents seven short articles collected by guest editor Josh Kun, all relating broadly to the topic of “Jews and American popular music.” The song is not the same, as the title of the volume says. Most readers who will turn to this little collection will approach it already feeling they have some handle on the topic of Jews and popular music, whether that means the cadre of Jewish songwriters from Irving Berlin to Stephen Sondheim who wrote nearly the entire “Great American Songbook,” singer-songwriters like Carole King and Paul Simon who more or less made music in the 1960s what it was, or the Jewish hipsters from Mezz Mezrow to Lieber and Stoller to the Beastie Boys who made more than incidental contributions to black musical genres from early jazz to hip hop. Though these sorts of high points and familiar names provide points of reference throughout the essays, most readers will likely come away seeing things differently than they had. The great strength of the volume is in Kun’s editorial vision, having solicited a set of articles on topics that move beyond received expectations for the area of the Jewish contribution to American music. If there is a weakness, it may also be seen in Kun’s approach to editing the volume: there is a level of unevenness common to edited collections, and this one is no exception.

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Perspectives on Jewish Music: Secular and Sacred. Jonathan L. Friedmann, ed. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2009. 162 pp. ISBN 978-0-7391-4152-6

Reviewed by Joshua S. Walden

Perspectives on Jewish Music, a collection of five essays addressing music in contemporary Jewish culture and personal Jewish history, is edited by Jonathan L. Friedmann, a cantor, string player, and author. In his introduction, Friedmann describes music as a tool of cultural preservation and emphasizes the role of music performance in defining Jewish personal and group identities throughout the Diaspora. Because of the many different contexts and conditions of Jewish life in the twentieth century, music has played a variety of roles and reflects a broad diversity of influences. This multiplicity of Jewish musical experiences is reflected in the disparate subjects of the book’s chapters.

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