The Black Jewish Soul

When I think Black Sabbath, I get visions of Ozzy Osbourne in his bat-eating days. But this isn’t about riding the meshuggeneh train.

I was already sold on The Idelsohn Society’s Black Sabbath: The Secret Musical History of Black-Jewish Relations because I have a soft spot for anything involving Johnny Mathis (and Danny Kaye, for that matter.) In spite of its kitschy name, this collection of rare footage of African-American musicians singing Jewish music is clearly the endeavor of educated and passionate audiophiles. And finding this clip of Nina Simone singing a Hebrew song was the clincher:


Sez the site:

The High Priestess of Soul sang this 1950s Israeli folk-dance ode to “a land flowing with milk and honey” (written by Eliahu Gamliel) on the stage of Carnegie Hall in 1963 on the same day that Martin Luther King Jr was jailed in Birmingham, Alabama. Neither Simone nor her biographers talk much about her choice of “Eretz Zarat Chalav,” which she first added to her repertoire in 1962 when she performed on the CBS program Camera Three. A year later, she sang it again on the TV show Hootenany, in front of an all white audience at Salem College not long after the assassination of JFK.

I’m just kind of glad The Secret Musical History of Black-Jewish Relations doesn’t include Sammy Davis Jr. as its icon. Not that I don’t love him; he’s just so obvious.

Hey, you know what would really be awesome? Black Sabbath: The Cookbook. Black-eyed pea blintzes, collard kugel, ya feel me? But no bat casserole.

Many, many thanks to Supah Kewl Jewish Mama Mindy Winn for the tip!

2 thoughts on “The Black Jewish Soul

  1. Aw, shucks. Glad you like it. If you get a chance, check out the webcast of the NPR interview from a couple of weeks ago. There’s a great conversation with Johnny Mathis about how he came to sing Kol Nidre. Pretty awesome stuff.

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