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Yonkle Doodle Dandy
Yonkle Doodle DandySunday, October 29, 2006 5:00 pm
Much has been made of the Jewish affinity for blackface minstrelsy — of Irving Berlin, Al Jolson, and others who composed ragtime songs, put on burnt cork, and transformed from immigrant upstarts to pop stars. But what about Jews who wore "Jew face"?
At Spertus, music historian Jody Rosen explored Jewish dialect songs and early 20th-century novelty hits performed by vaudeville's "Hebrew comedians." Why did Jewish audiences thrill to songs that seemed to slander them? What hidden history links Over the Rainbow and God Bless America to Yonkle, the Cowboy Jew and When Moses With His Nose Leads the Band?
Jody Rosen is music critic for Slate magazine. A frequent contributor to The New York Times, The Nation, and other publications, he is author of White Christmas: The Story of an American Song and producer of Jewface, an anthology of turn-of-the-century Jewish vaudeville songs now out on Reboot Stereophonic records.