Archive for the ‘ Jewish ’ Category

1939, August 11 – PUGLIESE DEBUTS AT CAFE NACIONAL

The mythical “Cafe Nacional”, the cathedral of tango, until 1916 was known as “Cafe LLoveras” where famed Argentine chess master Maximo Abramhson held court…it is here that Osvaldo Pugliese debuted with singer Amadeo Mandarino, his first orchestra on August 11, 1939…because of his communist sympathies, he was persecuted by the Juan Peron regime…during his periodic incarcerations his orchestra would continue performing but would place a red rose on top of his unmanned piano…He was born in the neighborhood of Villa Crespo, Buenos Aires, a traditionally jewish neighborhood, to an Italian immigrant father who was a shoe repairman but who loved music…it was he who gave young Osvaldo his  first violin lesson; Osvaldo would later switch to piano..at the age of 16 he was hired by Paquita Bernardo, the first professional female bandoneonist in Argentina, to play in her sextet…

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Osvaldso Pugliese was a highly principled man with a strong sense of social justice…among his activities, he was an organizer of workers’ strikes and even looked after the welfare of the terribly exploited prostitutes…he set up his orchestra as a cooperative in which everyone including himself was paid the same amount of money…there were numerous great hits among his hundreds of recording but perhaps non greater than “Recuerdo” which he composed  at the age of 19…during one of his numerous world tours at a stopover in Japan, he had a conversation with Dr. Daisaku Ikeda, a renown Buddhist who said of Osvaldo “I have met with emperors, kings, philosophers, great personalities from around the world, but I never found as much spiritual affinity with such a person as with Osvaldo.”

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1924, August 8 – PREMIERE OF “ALLA TANGO MILONGA”

He had been a rising star in the cultural world of the 1920s and inspite of having served his country in the first world war and having been wounded on the Russian front twice, he now found himself blacklisted, struggling to survive solely because he was jewish….his friends tried to warn him, “Erwin, get out now, leave while you can!”…but he delayed, it was difficult to leave his beloved Prague…..the day arrived that the Soviet Union finally granted him citizenship and he prepared to move with his son and wife to the safety that it afforded…in the summer of 1941, the unexpected happened,  Hitler in an operation called “Barbarosa” invaded the Soviet Union in his blitzkrieg assault…the next day Erwin was ordered to the police station…in the winter of that year he was deported to the Wulzburg Concentration Camp where a sympathetic camp commander spared him the exhausting field work but he soon died of tuberculosis; he was 48 years old…Erwin Schulhoff was born in Prague of German Jewish origen…in his youth he studied composition and piano at Prague, Vienna, Leipzig and Cologne where his teachers included Claude Debussy…

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He would become a celebrated pianist performing throughout Europe including at the renown Osvobozene Divadlo in Praque which was part of the avant-guarde theater movement…among the theater’s influences were the ideas of F T Marinetti author of the famous manifesto “Down With Tango”…..after the war, like so many young people, symbolized by T. S. Eliot’s “Wasteland” – “April is the cruelest month, breeding lilacs of the dead land, mixing memory and desire, stirring dull roots with spring rain – he was deeply disillusioned, lost and depressed and like many, he found his inspiration in the Russian revolution of 1917…he was one of Europe’s first classical music composers to find inspiration in tango and jazz…his music was so much him, that he continued to compose even in the concentration camp and at the Russian front; in fact he published his first composition immediately after the war…”Alla Milonga Tango” was the 4th composition of “Five Pieces For String Quartet” which premiered at the International Society for New Music Festival in Salzburg on August 8, 1924…another “tango milonga” the mythical Suicide Tango would be composed four years later by Jerzy Petersburski and would have a macabre fate

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2010, July 14 – “SIXTY, SEX AND TANGO” PUBLISHED

“I wake up every day with gratitude and the intention to go through life with a true sense of forgiveness”, says Joan Moran in her sometimes touching, sometimes funny, sometimes sad book “Sex, Sixty and Tango”…and it all begins at a tango dance; a Milonga…one evening while at her customary Saturday milonga, Joan Moran said to a friend, “I want to do a stand up routine about men and sex because sex was so very different in the 60s…”…”Joan, that’s a book, you can do stand up any time” responded her friend“Sixty, Sex and Tango” which has received enthusiastic reviews, is in essence about how to discover spiritual balance while living with great joy, sex, and romance…more concretely, using honest and courageous language, it is a book about men, dating, relationships, sex, about being a grandmother…in the section about parenting, for example, she speaks of the need to raise her children to be independent, to give them roots and then wings

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Joan Moran, a self-described jewish wanderer was educated in catholic schools and has been an actress and a drug counselor and aspired to be a stand up comedian…she is a yoga teacher …at a certain point in her life, she lost her life’s partner to illness in the middle of raising her two boys…she says, “I started taking tango lessons when I was in full menopause…I felt the music moving through my body, it was like falling in love all over again”….lugging her MacBook around from milonga to milonga, from tango festival to tango festival, she observed and reflected about how the old cliches about a woman getting older were no longer appropriate…she talks about the tensions in relationships and dating and the need for sex…“I like sex” she confesses; she even manages to make a topic like female masturbation funny….she teaches tango and has been to Buenos Aires over 13 times…Joan says, “the best lesson I ever learned in my sixtys to ‘just let it be'”

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1959, July 9 – RECORDED, “MASOCHISM TANGO”

His satirical compositions were too risqué, too offensive and radio stations refused to play them so Tom Lehrer paid for the recordings out of his own pocket and sold them at Harvard University for three dollars…people liked them and recommended them to others and then mail order requests began to arrive from other parts of the country…one day Princess Margret happened to mention that her tastes in music ranged from Mozart to To Lehrer and that created huge interest in his music; the BBC began playing his records at a time when they were still banned in the United States…one of his most popular hits was “Masochism Tango” which he recorded on July 9, 1959…Tom Lehrer, singer, song writer, satirist and mathematician, was born to a jewish family in Manhattan and began studying classical piano at the age of seven but eventually he discovered that he liked popular music better…

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He made his first composition  at the age of 10…it was while studying mathematics at Harvard University that one day, he happened to the compose the satirical “Fight Fiercely Harvard”…when it made him a local hero, he was surprised, “I just think anyone would be interested” he was to say…he graduated with high honors and went on to obtain advanced degrees…he later taught at MIT and Harvard…in an unusual move he enlisted in the army but chose to remain an enlisted man attaining the rank of corporal…he performed in nightclubs around Boston where Issac Asimov was one of his fans and mentions him in his autobiography…Lehrer has said of his musical career, “If, after hearing my songs, just one human being is inspired to say something nasty to a friend, or perhaps to strike a loved one, it will all have been worth the while.”

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1946, June 28 – CARLOS DANTE RECORDS “CON ALMA DE TANGO”

The lyrics to “Con Alma De Tango” say, “I am the soul of tango full of anger and bitterness…I loved her with so much tenderness but she was not faithful and left…like yesterday, today I await her, needlessly…on this gray afternoon my soul is nonetheless full of hope…my wine cup is empty which the wine of memory now fills”…the author of those lines, Carlos Waiss, spoke from experience; he had his own great love that ended in bitter disappointment..a love that he never forgot and whose shadow was to be perennially  present in his writings…Waiss, born in Buenos Aires, was the son of Russian Jewish immigrants..early on he learned to love the night life especially drinking and gambling; he was fluent in Lunfardo…his writings reflected his own experiences and the drama of his friends and acquaintances in the clubs and bars where tango was nurtured…he was to say about himself, “Iam the tango”…

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He was a big admirer of the poet Julian Centeya and a friend of Juan D’arienzo who asked him to write the lyrics to his composition “Con Alma De Tango”…it was recorded by the Alfredo De Angelis Orchestra with the voice of Carlos Dante on June 28, 1946…Carlos Dante was born to poor Italian immigrants in the neighborhood of Boedo in Buenos Aires…early on he left school to help support the family…he was working as an apprentice in a workshop with his destiny mapped out for him but he loved to sing…a friend of his father’s heard him sing one day and was impressed by young Carlo’s musical ability…he introduced him to a professional theater company through which he joined the Francisco Pracanico Orchestra…for ten years he was a daily presence on the legendary Glostora Tango Club with the Alfredo De Angelis Orchestra

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1879, June 19 – BIRTH OF BARONESS WAKEFIELD, GARDEL’S ?

Many legends arose about the relationship…some as outlandish as, that she had sent him gardenias in a gold pot to his hotel room…others claimed that late at night she would sneak into his room, that she paid all of his expenses, that she financed all of his movies…the gossip began almost from the moment Carlos Gardel met Sadie Wakefield sometime around 1929…it is true that she paid for many of his expenses…while Carlos Gardel made enormous sums of money, he was always in debt due to his gambling habits…for her part Sadie Wakefield did not discourage the stories; they gave her  status and fascination and made the envy of her rich friends…her rich husband George Wakefield who was very much in love with Sadie indulged her pastimes…George Wakefield was an investor in Gardel’s movies; he was also the principal shareholder of Exitos Spanish Pictures of which Gardel was the titular head…Sadie Wakefield was born in Baltimore, the daughter of Bernhard Baron, a Russian born jewish businessman who lived in the United States and later moved to England…

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There he headed the Carreras Tobacco Company which through his legendary managerial skills, made the company prosper…when the film “Melodia de Arrabal” was shot in Paris, Sadie was a frequent presence…the story is told that one day Gardel arrived to the set with Sadie in a black limousine and reportedly his co-star Imperio Argentina said to him “Have you become an undertaker accompanied by old women”…Manuel Pizzaro described Sadie as “an old woman with exaggerated make up and as wide as she is tall…but discreet and generous”…generous she was, the French government would eventually decorate her for her philanthropy…when Gardel was in Nice he would stay at the Wakefield’s magnificent chalet Villa L’Oiseu Blu…it is there that Gardel got to really know Charlie Chaplain…visitors would note that, behind a Japanese style bar richly incrusted in mother of pearl ivory was a picture of Sadie, Gardel and Charlie Chaplain….Chaplain would take a great liking to Gardel and he would write in his diary of having conversed the whole night with Gardel…..Sadie Wakefield would pass away at the age of 64 in New York; her husband would survive her for another six years

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1954, May 13 – OPENING OF “THE PAJAMA GAME”

The tango “Hernando’s Hideaway” debuted in the musical “The Pajama Party” and was immediately a great hit; it has remained on of the most instantly recognized melodies in history…it has been recorded by many artists …bandleader Archie Bleyer’s version was perhaps the most successful reaching number “2” on the billboard chart in 1954….in 1955 the British vocal group “The Johnston Brothers” turned “Hernando’s Hideaway” into a number one single which in turn was used prominently in the British cult classic “Snatch” directed by Guy Ritchie…Debelah Morgan’s international hit “Dance With Me”,  released in 2000, is essentially a rearranged “Hernando’s Hideaway”…….it was a hit for Ella Fitzgerald from a live recording at Carnegie Hall…there are at least fifteen Finnish versions, the most popular being the by the ill-fated Olavi Virta in 1956…others who have successfully recorded it include Enoch Light and David Clayton Thomas; it has even been used by Breakbeat and Hip Hop artists

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The Pajama Game is based on the novel “7 1/2 Cents” by Richard Bissel…in the story, workers in a pajama factory are demanding a seven and a half cent raise but they are being ignored…in the midst of the ordeal an unlikely love blossoms between “Babe” the head of the grievance committee and “Sid” the new factory superintendent…directed by George Abott and choreographed by Bob Fosse, it was a hit enduring 1063 performances and winning many awards including a Tony for Best Musical…Bob Fosse would direct “Chicago” which had another great tango hit “Cell Block Tango”…The Pajama Game was composed by Richard Adler and written by Jerry Ross; they were also the team which created “Damn Yankees” which featured another hit tango, “Whatever Lola Wants, Lola Gets”…a bright future was predicted for the duo but Jerry Ross died of a respiratory disease at the age of twenty-nine years old; he was however, extremely productive in his short life writing or co-writing over 250 songs

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1902, May 10 – BIRTH OF JEVEL KATZ, “THE JEWISH GARDEL”

Singer, Poet, Comedian (Taurus) – lying in his hospital bed, weak and emaciated he was nevertheless jovial and continued  singing even parodying his own situation…Jevel Katz was in fact “the happiest of all jews”…unexpectedly, he finally passed away at the age of thirty-seven from post op infection…when news of his untimely demise spread, people were incredulous, how could someone who had brought so much joy be dead…at his funeral, the out pouring of love from 40,000 people was unexpected; it was surpassed only by the funeral of Carlos Gardel five years earlier; in fact posthumously Jevel became known as “the Jewish Gardel”…Jevel Katz was born in Vilna Lithuania to a struggling family…as a young boy he began working in a print shop where he was soon entertaining his fellow workers…at the age of twenty-seven he decided to follow his brother to Buenos Aires; just a few years later most of Vilna’s sizable and influential Jewish community would perish in Nazi death camps

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From the moment of Jevel’s arrival in Buenos Aires he fell in love with the city and the country and he decided he would pursue a career in show business….he developed a character, “a street singer”,  who, with spontaneity and grace, parodied everyday life…he was sometimes dressed in a tuxedo or as a gaucho or even as a woman…like Walter Yonsky, he was part of the Jewish theater tradition in Buenos Aires…he would take popular songs and sing them in a dialect of his own invention “castidish” which was a mixture of Yiddish and Spanish and lunfardo…he performed mainly in jewish neighborhoods but also on special programs on Radio Belgrano…he composed over 5oo songs in diverse genres including rancheras, tangos, and fox trots…he was self-taught in a number of musical instruments and used others which he had personally invented…he had signed a contract to perform in the United States, a dream come true…he entered the hospital to have a tonsils related type operation but in recovery he apparently suffered a post op infection resulting in a coma from which he never awoke

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2002, May 2 – WALTER YONSKY COMMITS SUICIDE

Walter understood children, he knew them, he liked them, perhaps because he never stopped being one himself…his children’s recording were beloved and many of those children as adults, would write with nostalgia and deep gratitude about those recordings… which made it all more incredulous that one day, like another Buenos Aires singer Sabina Olmos,  he would jump to his death from of  the terrace of the building where he lived; he was sixty-four years old, out of work, out of money and alone…Walter Yonsky was born in the neighborhood of Balvanera, in Buenos Aires in 1937 to jewish immigrant parents from Poland who had arrived two years earlier…Walter’s father Moises was a musician and a lover of  tango; he arrived in Buenos Aires toting prized recording of the legendary Polish tango composer Jerzy Petersbursky; in fact, in Poland, popular music was primarily tango and primarily jewish in origin…early on Walter demonstrated precocious musical talent and Moises enrolled him in singing lessons; at the age of twelve he auditioned on Radio Belgrano

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However, it seemed to Moises that his son could never earn a living as a singer and he forced him into business school from which he graduated as an accountant…Walter however, to the dismay of his father, immediately began studying acting; he debuted in the Teatro Rivera in the city of Corboba in 1959 with George Bernard Shaw’s, “The Disciple of the Devil”… he then began performing in popular radio soap operas where his fame began to grow…he startred singing tango and he put together a tango show which ran to a packed house at the mythical Cafe Tortoni…he recorded numerous tango CDs devoted to milongas, waltzes and classic romantic tangos from “La Guardia Vieja”…among his popular recording was “Paquita Tango” dedicated to he legendary Paquita Bernardo the first woman bandoneon player…he was to say, “Our people sing very little now, they are forgetting how to do it…it is if they have the music lodged in their throat”

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1897, April 20 – BIRTH OF JERZY PETERSBURSKI

Composer, Pianist (Aries) – Jerzy Petersburski was the composer of the mythical tango “Ta Ostatnia Niedziela” (This Is The Last Sunday) which was to have a dramatic and macabre role in history…it became known as “Suicide Tango” for young disillusioned Polish army officers would shoot themselves in the head while playing it in the background…furthermore the nazis would have Jewish musicians play this tango as they led Jews to their death in the gas chambers…in fact Arthur Gold, Peterburski’s cousin who had played “Ta Ostatnia Niedziela” professionally in pre war Warsaw, would lead the orchestra at Treblinka which played it as jews were led to their death; Gold himself would eventually meet the same fate…a Russian version of this tango became the theme song in the 1997 Russian film “Burnt By The Sun” which won the academy award for Best Foreign Film…the tango was used in another academy award winner Shindler’s List which premiered in 1993

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Jerzy Petersburski was born into a well-known Warsaw family of jewish musicians…he is credited with having popularized tango in Poland which adopted tango with an intensity unparalleled anywhere else in the world; tango became synonymous with Polish popular music…it is even more surprising when one considers that unlike Paris, Madrid or Berlin, tango came to Warsaw primarily through gramophone recordings and not visiting Argentinean orchestras…interestingly, tango in Poland is mostly of Jewish origen…after the war Jerzy Petersburski lived in Buenos Aires for twenty years where he worked for “Radio El Mundo” during which he composed the hit song “All Roads Lead to Buenos Aires”…toward the end of his life he returned to Poland settling in his beloved Warsaw…in 1928 he composed “Tango Milonga” which became an instant hit all over the world…in English it was called “Oh Donna Clara” and was recorded by Al Jolson in America and Edith Piaf in France and even Florindo Sassone in Buenos Aires

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