Tag Archives: Musicians

Jew of the Week: Bob Dylan

First Musician to Win a Nobel Prize

Bob Dylan in 1963

Bob Dylan in 1963

Robert Allen Shabbatai Zisl Zimmerman (b. 1941) was born in Minnesota, the grandchild of Ukrainian- and Lithuanian-Jewish immigrants. Listening to the radio as a child, Zimmerman fell in love with music. In high school, he formed a number of bands, mostly doing covers of Elvis Presley. While studying at the University of Minnesota, Zimmerman regularly performed at clubs and coffeehouses near the campus, introducing himself as “Bob Dylan” (after the poet, Dylan Thomas). He soon dropped out of school and moved to New York City. It only took about a year for him to get signed by Columbia Records. Though his first album didn’t do very well, and he was nearly dropped from the record label, Dylan’s second album fared much better. With this album, Dylan showed that he was not only a musician and songwriter, but a talented poet as well. The Beatles described his music as “incredibly original and wonderful”. By 1963, Dylan was tremendously popular, and had become an important part of the civil rights movement, too. He went on to produce an unbelievable 37 albums (so far), selling 120 million copies. His “Like a Rolling Stone” was listed as the greatest song of all time on multiple occasions, and his hand-written lyrics for this song recently sold at an auction for a record $2 million. His 2009 album made him the oldest artist ever to debut at number one on the Billboard 200 chart. Since 1988, Dylan has been on a “Never Ending Tour”, consistently performing around 100 concerts every year, and continuing to perform regularly to this day. Dylan also wrote a novel, published six books of his drawings and paintings, as well as a bestselling autobiography that was nominated for the National Book Award. He has won twelve Grammy Awards, an Oscar, a Golden Globe, and a Presidential Medal of Freedom. Last week, it was announced that he received the Nobel Prize for Literature – the first musician to do so. It has been said that Dylan inspired countless musicians “from Mick Jagger to Eminem”, while President Obama once admitted that “There is not a bigger giant in the history of American music.” TIME Magazine placed him on the list of the 100 Most Important People of the 20th century. Many have argued that Dylan’s lyrics should be studied in schools, and indeed, courses on Bob Dylan are now offered at a number of universities around the world.

Chag Sukkot Sameach!

Words of the Week

Most people worry about their own bellies, and other people’s souls, when we all ought to be worried about our own souls, and other people’s bellies.
– Rabbi Israel Salanter

Bob Dylan at his son Jesse's bar mitzvah at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, 1983

Bob Dylan at his son Jesse’s bar mitzvah at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, 1983

Jew of the Week: Sid Caesar

Greatest Comedian of All Time

Sid Caesar

Sid Caesar

Isaac Sidney Caesar (1922-2014) was born in New York, the third and youngest son of a mother from Russia and a father from Poland (given the name ‘Caesar’ by an immigration official). His parents ran a 24-hour eatery where, as a child, he would mimic and entertain the restaurant patrons. After high school, he intended to pursue a career in music as a saxophone player. From a small sax gig, he moved onto a dance band, then a comedy show when his jokes got more applause then his music. At the end of World War II (when he played for a military band), Caesar made his way to Hollywood and began starring in film. He also performed stand-up at comedy clubs, and had a stint on Broadway before focusing on television. Perhaps his most famous skit was double-talk, where he mimicked virtually any language perfectly, without actually saying anything intelligible (he only spoke English and Yiddish fluently). In the 1950s, Caesar was behind the greatest show on television, ‘Your Show of Shows’, watched by over 60 million people weekly. For this, he won his first Emmy, and was voted America’s Best Comedian. He would go on to make several other successful TV programs, and is even credited with helping make TV the dominant medium at a time when radio was still king. Caesar’s comedy is said to have revolutionized the entire genre, and inspired the next generation of comedians, many of which consider him the greatest funnyman of all time.  Meanwhile, he did a great deal of charity work (click here to see Caesar’s double-talk at Chabad fundraisers) and was happily married for 67 years. Sadly, Caesar passed away last week.

Words of the Week

When God created the first man, He showed him all the trees of the Garden of Eden, and said to him: ‘See My works, how beautiful and praiseworthy they are. And everything that I created, I created for you. Be careful not to spoil or destroy My world—for if you do, there will be nobody after you to repair it.’
– Midrash Kohelet Rabbah 7:13