News and Views on Jews and Music

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News and Views on Jews and Music

The Producers

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No, not yet another incarnation of Mel Brooks' inspired inanity featuring Jewish actors like Matthew Broderick and Gene Wilder. But yes, a list of Jewish producers— of music, not musicals.

Like they did the movie industry, Jewish chance-takers practically invented the modern music industry, creating record labels and studios that gave musicians the resources they needed to become international sensations. Some of these people were businessmen who understood promotions, some were musical craftsmen who actually helped shape the musician's sound in the studio… and some were a lot of both.

Here are some of the Jewish music-biz people who were so important they made it into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, along with the great musicians they produced (most acts have different producers at different times, so some names will come up more than once):

Herb Alpert (inducted 2006)— A great trumpeter with several hits of his own, like "A Taste of Honey," he became the "A" in A&M Records (The "M" was Jerry Moss— see below). He co-wrote songs for Sam Cooke… and produced other mellow acts like Jan & Dean, The Carpenters, Cat Stevens, and Joe Cocker (OK, not as mellow).

Leonard Chess (1987)— Landmark blues artists like Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, Bo Diddley, and Willie Dixon, plus jazz singer Etta James and rock 'n' roll pioneer Chuck Berry.

Clive Davis (2000)— Rock legends like Aerosmith, Bruce Springsteen, The Grateful Dead, Lou Reed, Patti Smith, Santana, and Billy Joel, and soul singers like Aretha Franklin and Whitney Houston, but also Sara McLaughlin (folk), Diddy (hip-hop), and Alan Jackson (country).

Milt Gabler (1993)— Jazz royalty like Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, and Louis Jordan, and the folk stalwarts The Weavers.

Don Kirshner (2012)— Employed legendary Brill Building songwriters like Neil Diamond, Goffin and King, Mann and Weil, and Sedaka and Greenfield, who wrote songs for everyone from Aretha Franklin to The Monkees. He also published songs written by Leiber and Stoller, Bacharach and David, and Jeff Barry. Hosted a TV show featuring outrageous acts like the Police, David Bowie, Black Sabbath, Alice Cooper, KISS, and the Sex Pistols.

Jerry Moss (2006)— The "M" in A&M Records (The "A" was Herb Alpert, above). British rock acts like Joe Cocker and Humble Pie. Folksy acts like Phil Ochs, Cat Stevens, Carole King, and Suzanne Vega… arena-filling rockers Styx, Supertramp, Peter Frampton, Bryan Adams, and Sheryl Crow... New Wavers like The Police, The Go-Go's, and Human League… and, on the funkier side, Billy Preston, Quincy Jones… and Cheech & Chong.

Art Rupe (2011)— Early rock and soul acts like Little Richard, Percy Mayfield, Lloyd Price, Sam Cooke, and Lou Rawls. Plus gospel greats like the Soul Stirrers and the Swan Silvertones, and N'awlin's acts like Art Neville and Clifton Chenier . Ray Charles was merely a studio musician!

Syd Nathan (1997)— Many names known mostly to R&B fans, but also James Brown.

Mo Ostin (2003)— Classic rockers like Jimi Hendrix, Frank Zappa, The Grateful Dead, Van Morrison, Fleetwood Mac, Neil Young and The Kinks, but also folksier acts like Joni Mitchell, Paul Simon, and James Taylor… and songwriter  Randy Newman.

Phil Spector (1989)- Studio genius (and now, sadly, a convict) who created the "Wall of Sound" sound for The Righteous Brothers, Tina Turner, and Ben E. King as well as his girl groups like the Ronettes.

Seymour Stein (2005)— Major punk and '80s acts like The Ramones, The Talking Heads, The Pretenders, The  Replacements, The Smiths, The Cure… and even Madonna!

Jerry Wexler (1987)— Soul greats like Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, and The Drifters but also Dire Straits... and Bob Dylan.

Rick Rubin will eventually get in, too. He started in hip-hop with acts like The Beastie Boys, Run-DMC, Public Enemy, LL Cool J, and Sir Mix-a-Lot. But even early on, he'd diversified to rock acts like Slayer, The Cult, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Danzig. He's even produced The Dixie Chicks. Recently, he's specialized in comebacks for artists like Mick Jagger, Tom Petty, Neil Diamond, Donovan, and Johnny Cash.

The music industry is changing, but two things are fairly certain. One is that the next big studio is now hatching just as these labels did, in someone's basement, garage, or dorm room. The other is that this someone is, well, Jewish.

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