fbpx

Jewish Broadway: From Shtetl to Sondheim

Stephen Whitfield – Brandeis University

The Jewish dominance of American popular music lasted about half a century, from roughly the First World War until roughly the Vietnam War. During that period, Jewish immigrants and their progeny played a decisive role in the shaping of musical taste and in helping to enable a disparate population to cohere around a harmonious culture.

From Tin Pan Alley, these songwriters established the Broadway musical and then extended it to the Hollywood musical, installing standards that managed to be immensely popular as well as sublime. The distinctive contribution of Jews to the nation's culture heritage merits serious analysis as well as retrospective appreciation.