Reboot Stereophonic Founders Release “And You Shall Know Us By The Trail Of Our Vinyl” Featuring The Barry Sisters

For some, inspiration comes from a trip to Paris, but for Roger Bennett and Josh Kun, the lodestone points towards Boca Raton (and eBay).  AND YOU SHALL KNOW US BY THE TRAIL OF OUR VINYL:  The Jewish Past as Told By the Records We Have Loved and Lost (Crown/$24.95/November 18, 2008) is about two men in search of their past and how they found an unexpected narrative through the faded liner notes and technologically passé medium of vinyl records.  It took them eight years, but in the end through countless garage sales, late night bids on eBay and friendships with a host of generous seniors, Bennett and Kun amassed an impressive archive and wove it together into a truly original history of Jewish culture in America.  Welcome to a world where Johnny Mathis sings Kol Nidre, Charlton Heston reads from The Old Testament, and Fiddler on the Roof goes Latin.

The relationship between vinyl and American Jewish households begins with sacred songs and finishes as the folk movement in the early 70’s begins to wane.  Along the way there are the superstars who crossed over into mainstream pop culture—Barbara Streisand, Neil Sedaka, and Barry Manilow—and the ones who were stars in other ways from cantors singing not only Jewish songs but Christmas tunes, girl bands, and Yiddish language records.  There were the artists who see an eager audience and cross from the pop world into this specialized market—Johnny Mathis, Nat King Cole and Eydie Gormé, born Edith Gormezano to Sephardic Spanish parents in the Bronx.

With love and a great deal of sly wit the authors introduce not only some of the near-forgotten stars of the vinyl age like the elegant Barry Sisters, bawdy comediennes Pearl Williams and Belle Barth, the Brothers Zim, Chaim Topol, Theodore Bikel and others, they mine the impact these artists had on their listeners.  The new comfortable suburban living rooms become staging grounds for a new era of leisure and relationship to the temple.  There is the mambo craze that brought Jewish and Latino artists together in new ways from Cuba to the Catskills.  The entwined relationship between Jewish and Black performers reflected shared experiences and emotions as well as exposed fault lines of differences.  And there was a complicated campaign waged in audio format for the hearts and minds of American Jewish families for the new country of Israel—from the sultry songstresses and joyous dancing kibbutz workers to David Ben Gurion’s “What is a Jew?”

AND YOU SHALL KNOW US BY THE TRAIL OF OUR VINYL is a rich record of artists and an often-hilarious examination of how packaging and messaging strove to launch careers, sell records—and shape a new notion of Jewish life and its place in the American dream.

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Author: James McQuiston

Ph.D. in Political Science, Kent State University. I have been the editor at NeuFutur / since I was 15. Looking for new staff members all the time; email me if you are interested. Thanks!

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