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Ben Sidran on Jews, Music and the American Dream
(Published: February 26, 2013)

February 25, 2013

Ben Sidran Honored by National Jewish Book Council

There Was a Fire: Jews Music and the American Dream, a book by internationally renowned musician and scholar Ben Sidran, was named a 2012 National Jewish Book Award Finalist in the category of Modern Jewish Thought and Experience by the Jewish Book Council.

A seed planted during Sidran's tenure as Artist-in-Residence at the University of Wisconsin, There Was a Fire is an eye-opening look at the dominant role Jews played in creating not just what is known as The Great American Songbook, but the music publishing, recording, and film industries, as well. Who knew that a young, impoverished boy named Louis Armstrong was nurtured body and soul by a family of Lithuanian Jewish immigrants who gave him his first trumpet, or that, in 1925, the top five film studios in the world were all run by Jews who had grown up within a few hundred miles of Warsaw?

More than a mind-bending Who's Who of Jewish musical giants (Berlin, Gershwin, Kern, Arlen & Harburg, Rogers & Hart, Comden & Green, Leiber & Stoller, Goffin & King, Dylan, Streisand) and modern-day originals (Lenny Kravitz, Adam Yauch, Matisyahu, the Hip Hop Hoodios), Sidran offers insightful analyses of the rhymes and reasons for their stunningly disproportionate influence in American music and culture.

In the lyrics of Harry Von Tilzer's Take Me Out to the Ballgame, Berlin's God Bless America, Gershwin's Swanee, and Harburg & Arlens' Somewhere Over the Rainbow, Sidran uncovers the core Jewish narrative of exile and what he has called a deep-seated "longing for belonging."

That longing can also be found in the music. "People think write Jewish means write minor, Sidran told a NY audience. "But that's not enough," he said. "It's not writing minor so much as writing minor in the context of major. It's what Shostakovich called the Jewish penchant for, ‘smiling through the tears.'"

Writer/scientist/musician Dan Levitin called There Was a Fire, "an extraordinary tour de force weaving cultural, political, musical, and economic history...a must-read for all music lovers."

The National Jewish Book Awards is the longest running awards program of its kind in the field of Jewish literature and is recognized as the most prestigious.

Best known as a jazz pianist and singer, Ben Sidran has recorded thirty-five solo albums, hosted award-winning radio and TV shows (NPR's Jazz Alive and VH-1's New Visions series), produced recordings for such noted artists as Van Morrison, Diana Ross, Michael Franks, Rickie Lee Jones, Mose Allison and Steve Miller (with whom he co-wrote the hit song Space Cowboy) and composed film soundtracks for Hoop Dreams and Vietnam: Long Time Coming. He holds a PhD. in American Studies from Sussex University, Brighton, England. His previous books include: Black Talk, Talking Jazz, and Ben Sidran A Life in the Music. Sidran's latest CD is Don't Cry For No Hipster.

Ben Sidran is available for audio, print, and TV interviews. He also conducts lecture/performances on the subject of Jews, Music and the American Dream.

More Information: https://www.bensidran.com

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