News and Views on Jews and Music

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News and Views on Jews and Music

Under-Known Jewish Songwriters: Chuck Brodsky

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Chuck Brodsky has two main fan bases for his musicthose who are fans of folk music in general and those who are also fans of baseball. He has so many songs about the dusty corners of baseball history that they filled a whole CD… which is available at the gift shop of the Baseball Hall of Fame.

But there is another potential fan baseyes, a "third base"that Brodsky should have: a Jewish one. That's because this one-time kibbutz volunteer has written some great songs about Jewish life and people. Some of which, of course, also involve baseball.

To be fair, there are some Jews who know of Brodsky; he's received positive reviews from The Jerusalem Post. He has also performed in Israel, and alongside his fellow Jewish folkies Arlo Guthrie, Janis Ian, and Ramblin' Jack Elliot.

Brodsky's newest CD, Subtotal Eclipse, came out in 2011. It contains the song "Lili's Braids"; hearing that they shave the Jews' heads in the Nazi camps, a family quickly braids and snips off their young daughter's gorgeous long hair, telling her that she will get it back after the war from their neighbor. "Gerta" is another song on the album about children during the Shoah.

The title track of his previous release, Tulips for Lunch, is about the Billy Goat curse on the Cubs. "Old Song Handed Down" is about Brodsky's ancestor who played klezmer music. "In the Beginning," a cover, is about the Torah, which in some ways is also an old song handed down.

On Last of the Old Time, we find out about Max Patkin, just in time for him to have "Gone to Heaven." Dubbed "The Clown Prince of Baseball," Patkin, who was Jewish, was not famed as a player. Rather, he would mug and goof and do old vaudeville routines during Triple-A games to keep the fans entertained between innings, becoming the precursor of mascots. And it's Brodsky who gave us the first song about the showbiz art known as "Schmoozing".

Radio is not about radio but the special-needs team assistant who always carries the radio which gave him the nickname "Radio"; he was immortalized by the movie Radio. Brodsky's song- called, well, "Radio"- is on the soundtrack. But the Jewish track here is "On Christmas, I Got Nothing." Why? ""Cause we were Jews."

"Our Gods" is about how we worship, as opposed to how we perhaps should. And the Jews-in-baseball song this time is "Moe Berg: The Song," about why that Yankee catcher's "baseball card is on display/ At the C.I.A. museum." (Hint: Berg was a spy.) This song is in the documentary Jews and Baseball: An American Love Story. It sure is one for Brodsky.

His songs preserve, and promote, the stories of those whom society has forgotten, while they puncture pretense and pretentiousness. Brodsky considers Mark Twain an influence; Twain was a reporter before he was a novelist, but he never forgot the journalist's credo: to "afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted." And neither has Chuck Brodsky.

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