Friday commences the most celebrated Jewish holiday of the year: Passover. Passover is a festival that commemorates the liberation of the Israelites from Egyptian slavery. It last’s for seven days.
According to the Jewish tradition Judaism is passed down from the Mother, but it’s actually a lot more complicated than that. Judaism can be considered a religion, an ethnicity, and a culture.
Despite my Mother’s standing as a Jewish woman, I do not identify myself Jewish when it comes to religion, well, I don’t identify with any religion. However according to my Ashkenazi ancestry, I am ethnically Jewish, and considering I spent a majority of my childhood eating bagels with lox and latkes, I have been introduced to Jewish culture as well.
In honor of Passover, here are seven Jewish musicians to get all Jews and non-Jews alike in the mood for the holiday.
Day 1: Regina Spektor
Spektor immigrated to New York City from Moscow when she was nine years old. Her family left the Soviet Union for religious purposes and were admitted into the U.S. with the help of assistance from the American Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society.
Her music is heavily influenced by religion, but nowadays, her relationship with faith is a bit more ambiguous.
“I’m always thinking about faith and spirituality and tradition and religion and how those things fit together or don’t fit together… Does religion do good or does it harm? …obviously it does both. I don’t exactly know how I feel about it.”
Day 2: The Ramones
Joey Ramone’s birth name was Jeffrey Hyman, he was born in Forest Hills, Queens. A predominantly Jewish neighborhood that also bred fellow Jews Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel, but we’ll get to them later.
Tommy Ramone was also Jewish. Born Thomas Erdelyi in Budapest, Hungary. A Jew, he was the son of Holocaust survivors who hid in friends’ homes to elude the Nazis. When he was four, his family moved to the U.S. and settled in, you guessed it – Forest Hills, Queens.
In the book The Heebie-Jeebies at CBGB’s: A Secret History of Jewish Punk Paperback, author Steven Lee Beeber focuses on punk’s beginnings in New York City that show punk was the most Jewish of rock movements, in both makeup and attitudes.
Day 3: Drake
Aubrey Drake Graham aka Drake is probably the most famous black Jew since Lenny Kravitz.
The biracial Canadian rapper grew up with his mother in a primarily Jewish neighborhood in Toronto after his parent’s divorce. He had a bar mitzvah at the age of 13, and still practices Jewish traditions.
“Nobody understood what it was like to be black and Jewish… being different from everyone else just made me a lot stronger.”
Day 4: Simon and Garfunkel
Simon and Garfunkel met when in Forest Hills, Queens when they were starring in the school play together at the age of nine. It was Alice and Wonderland. Garfunkel played the Cheshire Cat, while Simon played the White Rabbit, and it was their debut performance.
Lyrically the duo never touched on anything too religious. Simon’s more recent work have exhibited an increase in spiritual content. But in terms of any sort of belief system, it’s inconsistent.
Day 5: Haim
Haim (Hebrew for “life”) is a Los Angeles rock band comprising of sisters Este, Danielle, and Alana.
They grew up celebrating Jewish holidays and listening to their grandmother’s Ofra Haza cassettes. Their parents are musicians (including their Israeli born father) and they started a family band with the girls from a young age. The girl’s eventually went off on their own and the rest is history.
Before deciding on Haim, they considered calling themselves The Bagel Bitches.
Day 6: The Beastie Boys
It may seem unlikely but Judaism and rap have gone hand in hand since at least 1983.
Adam Horowitz (Adrock), Michael Diamond (Mike D), and the late Adam Yauch (MCA) were all members of the pioneering rap group The Beastie Boys. And they were all nice Jewish boys hailing from Brooklyn, New York.
Now adays, it seems like a particularly special time for the Chosen People in rap since their groundbreaking entrance onto the scene. We now have fellow Jewish rappers Mac Miller, Necro, Matisyahu, Kreayshawn, Hoodie Allen, and Action Bronson. Thanks to The Beastie Boys leading the way.
Day 7: Lou Reed
Lou Reed was once asked if he was Jewish, his response: “Of course, aren’t all the best people?” He was also known to make the occasional anti-Semitic remark, and once told Journalist Lester Bangs that he didn’t know any Jews.
Lou Reed invented punk rock with the Velvet Underground. He even made noise rock a thing unintentionally with Metal Machine Music. He was forward thinking and pushed boundaries. His incredible songwriting and storytelling within his music are his legacy as a talented songwriter.
On religion he once said: “My God is rock ’n’ roll. It’s an obscure power that can change your life,” and “The most important part of my religion is to play guitar.”