Jewish contribution to Doo-Wop
What made the Jewish contribution unique in the development of the 1950s vocal group sound and of rock and roll in general was the ability to extract and internalize the African-American experience and make their music mainstream. The Jewish contribution to doo-wop lies primarily in the area of songwriting and the corporate music business in general. Unlike their musical counterparts, the Italians and Puerto Ricans, who were primarily singers; The Jewish contribution took on the complex ethnic-racial mix of fusing a new sound.
The fundamental Jewish contribution to the image of the rhythm and blues vocal group lies in the production, songwriting, and development of the vocal harmony group scene. Cahill writes, “Without the Jews, we would see the world through different eyes, listen with different ears, even feel with different sentiments.”
The admiration and promotion of black talent is underestimated. Pruter writes, “Vocal harmony groups have always constituted one of the richest traditions in black music, an art form as deeply rooted as jazz, blues, or gospel.” two
However, when one takes a cursory look at record labels during the beginning and development of rock and roll, particularly the vocal group harmony landscape, one can see that most of the acts, record labels, and songs written during that time period (1945-1965)) had a Jewish connection.
The most recognizable groups and labels hailed from the three major epic hubs that produced the vocal group street corner sound: New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles. It was in these cities that the new art form became known and eventually the onomatopoeic term we use today, doo-wop, emerged. Although the term doo-wop emerged in the late 1960s and early 1970s, the term used here in this essay defines the harmony style of an R&B vocal group. Jewish entrepreneurs who introduced black talent and promoted the new sound founded many of the major record labels during the height of the 1950s vocal group era.
The sound of doo-wop in general invoked a traditional cultural worldview that became the hallmark of black culture at the time. Songs voiced by black groups reflected the cultural innocence and coming of age that appealed to youth in urban communities. The lyrics and musical harmony style appealed to white, slightly middle-class urban sentiments, while at the same time keeping their music within the perimeter of the black community.
A considerable number of Jewish businessmen had a massive impact on the development of the rhythm and blues vocal group sound and of rhythm and blues in general. Jewish entrepreneurs impacted the sound of the nascent vocal group of the 1950s in a dynamic way. One such person is Herman Lubinsky, (Savoy Records) grandfather of famous PBS doo-wop host TJ Lubinsky. Lubinsky produced and recorded Little Anthony and the Imperials, Debutantes, Carnations, Jive Bombers, Falcons and the Robins. Lubinsky’s path to the music business paved the way for unnoticed and unregistered groups to seek musical stardom through the newly emerging street corner sound.
The Branun family that owned Deluxe Records had a host of solid talent at their disposal. Some of his best acts included: Federals, Otis Williams and the Charms, Serenades and the Quails with Bill Robinson. All of these acts were funneled into venues like the Apollo Theater in Harlem, the Olympia Arena in Detroit, and Alan Freed shows.
The team of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stroller, the team of Leiber and Stroller made a multitude of hits for a large number of artists. As a team, they were able to overcome the barriers of racism in the music industry and bring black talent to light with their musical compositions.
Alan Freed, the king of DJs, who broke the color barrier by introducing black vocal groups to audiences on radio, film and television and set the stage for future DJs. His influence, and his introduction to rock and roll, and vocal groups in particular, provided a cultural climate in which white youth could hear and experience the evolution of the new modus operandi that was beginning to shape the musical culture of the Americans. youths.
Chess Records, Chicago’s leading record company, founded by Leonard and Phil Chess, became the quintessential record label of the 1950s, producing not only groups like the Flamingos and Moonglows, but also great artists like Bo Diddley, Aretha Franklin and Chuck Berry.
Ultimately, record producer and songwriter Phil Spector developed the concept of “Wall Of Sound”, which still stands as a monument to pop music. All of these individuals contributed to the overall R&B sound and harmony of the vocal group. In the end, the Jewish contribution to rock and roll and the doo-wop sound is an act of love. Without your contribution, we would be like a ship at sea without a rudder.
1. The Gifts of the Jews: How a Tribe of Desert Nomads Changed the Way Everyone Thinks and Feels
Thomas Cahill, Nam A. Talese- Doubleday- Page 3
2. Doo Wop The Chicago Scene
Robert Pruter, University of Illinois Press-Pg. xxxx
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Abraham J. Santiago is co-author with Steven J. Dunham of the popular book Acappella Street Corner Vocal Groups: A Brief History And Discography Of 1960s Singing Groups