Tuesday 16 January 2018

Kevin Myers: Our traditions, for good or evil, shape us all

'HOUND Dog' is perhaps the most influential piece of verse in the latter half of the 20th Century. Its author, Jerry Leiber, was called ashore last week, after a life in which he either created or inspired some of the greatest popular music of our time. Needless to say, he was Jewish.

Most popular musical forms of the 20th Century have been the work of Jews. It is absurd but true: 'My Fair Lady', 'The King and I', 'South Pacific', 'Oliver', 'Oklahoma', 'Camelot', 'Porgy and Bess', and 'Jailhouse Rock' were all written by about half a dozen members of a tiny Semitic sect of exiles from Palestine.

Without a handful of other Jewish songwriters -- Doc Pomus, Mort Schuman, Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller -- there really would be no Elvis Presley or rock and roll. Deduct Robert Zimmerman -- aka Bob Dylan -- and Carole King and bang goes 20th-Century popular musical culture.

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