Jews and Music
and maybe, love
What a week. Democrats more amazing than most of us believed they could be,
Jamie Raskin’s incredible closing argument (and the funny Facebook debate: bald spot
or yamulke, conclusively determined as bald spot), and then, the unfortunate
In the midst of all this, life continued, and in one of the classes I
teach, a Jewish woman of indeterminate and familiar age described to us all how she
fell in love, Yes Really, she said, on an international karaoke site, with a man
in Istanbul. What did it, she explained, was her rendition of Unchained Melody,
where she looked into Mehmet’s eyes and that was that.
When I told the story to the Penn South writers, one of the women in the class,
Nora North, said that her uncle Alex North wrote the music to that song. Alex,
born Isadore Soifer to Ukrainian immigrants on December 4, 1910 in Chester,
Pennsylvania was the son of Jesse, a blacksmith and Baila, who ran a grocery store.
A friend of his in Los Angeles was making a low budget prison film called Unchained.
He asked Alex to write the score.
Alex then called his friend Hy Zaret, born Harry Zaritsky, to write the lyrics. Zaret
said no at first. He was painting his house. Eventually he did write Unchained
Melody, though he refused the request to use the word Unchained in the lyrics.
More than 300 artists recorded the song, including Lena Horne, Guy Lombardo, the
Righteous Brothers, Elvis, and Al Hibbler. Some music historians say it was the most
popular song of all time.
Alex North went on to write 14 songs nominated for Oscars.
Hy Zaret did well too. He even wrote One Meat Ball about a poor man with only
15 cents and one meatball.
This seemed like a good enough story for Valentine’s Day. As we all know,
love comes in many ways.
We all send love to you.
Larry, Jessica, and Esther