[Ed.'s Note: Roger Bennett and Josh Kun are the masterminds behind the amazing Jews on Vinyl project, where they have digged deep to retell the history of Jewish recorded music from the 1940s to the 1980s. Their projects include a blog, a book and a traveling museum exhibit which is coming to LA's Skirball Cultural Center on May 12 and will be there until September 5. Next Tuesday, May 11th, at 8 pm Kun and President of MySpace Music Courtney Holt will present “a one-of-a-kind slideshow of LP covers, plus rare musical clips.” The exhibit will be free and open to lecture attendees form 6 to 8. To celebrate this exhibit and the talk, Kun and Bennett are guest-blogging for West Coast Sound, sharing covers and stories from their great archive of greatest moments (and some strangest moments) of the Great Jewish LP era.]
The Wizard of the Jewish musical Oz that is the Jews on Vinyl exhibition might just be the 95 year old piano fusionist Irving “Fabulous Fingers” Fields.
In many ways his 1959 album Bagels and Bongos— a pioneering experiment featuring Yiddish and Hebrew hits re-imagined through Latin American rhythms– sums up the stories our exhibition tells and the music that is at the heart of The Idelsohn Society for Musical Preservation. It was our first re-issue, and the cross-cultural worlds and identity-swapping strategies it represents are still at the heart of heart of what we do.
Once a child star of the Yiddish theater, Fields turned his days playing cruise ships in Puerto Rico and Cuba into a Jewish-Latin musical love affair, even recording for RCA Victor as “Campos, El Pianista.” When we heard him tearing through “Havana Nagila” and conjuring up a “Miami Merengue” worthy of any mid-century Latin ballroom, we were convinced there was a lost kingdom of Jewish-American sound waiting to be rediscovered.
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