Tag Archives: The Beatles

Jew of the Week: Brian Epstein

The Fifth Beatle

Brian Samuel Epstein (1934-1967) was born in Liverpool, England to a Jewish family of Russian and Lithuanian heritage. His father had expanded the family furniture store to sell musical instruments, and it was here that Paul McCartney’s father bought a piano for his son. Brian Epstein was expected to go into the family business, too, but convinced his parents to allow him to go to acting school in London. He didn’t like it, and returned to Liverpool to run the family’s new NEMS music store. Epstein worked hard to make it the most successful music store in Northern England. He soon became familiar with a new local band, The Beatles (all of whom bought music at his store), and for his 21st birthday booked a party at The Cavern Club where they played. He immediately fell in love with the group, and considered managing them, even though his assistant thought they were “absolutely awful”. Nonetheless, Epstein returned regularly to the club over the next three weeks to watch the band, before proposing to become their manager. He drew up a five-year contract—technically for their parents since The Beatles were all under 21 and needed consent. Epstein got to work right away, transforming their image from a “scruffy crowd in leather” who cursed, drank, and smoked on stage, to wearing suits and presenting a “fresh” vibe. (John Lennon didn’t want to wear a suit but then said he would “wear a bloody balloon if somebody’s going to pay me.”) For nearly a year, the band made no money and Epstein paid for all of their expenses. Over that time, Epstein met with executives from Columbia Records, EMI, and several other big labels, all of whom rejected The Beatles. Eventually, Epstein threatened to stop selling EMI records at his stores, so EMI agreed to a cheap, “nothing to lose” recording contract through their smaller Parlophone label. The Beatles began recording in June of 1962, and the rest is history. Epstein guided the group and took care of them, kept them focused, set up the branding that launched “Beatlemania”, and ultimately made the Beatles the best-selling and most influential music band in history. In turn, the band loved and trusted their manager, and never even read the contracts he brought them to sign. (“We had complete faith in him when he was running us,” said Lennon.) Epstein was the best man at both Lennon’s and Ringo Starr’s weddings. (Contrary to popular belief, the latter is not Jewish.) Epstein worked round-the-clock, and soon became dependent on both stimulants and sedatives. In 1967, days after sitting shiva for his father, he took a large dose of sedatives which, though normal for him, mixed fatally with the large amount of alcohol he had drunk. His death was officially ruled an accident, and biographers have since refuted rumours of suicide. Whatever the case, The Beatles were devastated by the loss of their manager, and never recovered. The band soon fell apart. Paul McCartney would later describe Epstein as “The Fifth Beatle”. The Bee Gees wrote the song ‘In the Summer of His Years’ as a tribute to Epstein, who played a small but critical role in their success as well.

Words of the Week

If the Jew did not exist, the antisemite would invent him.
– Jean-Paul Sartre

Jew of the Week: Jackie Mason

King of Comedy

Yacov Moshe Maza aka Jackie Mason

Renowned Comedian Yacov Moshe Maza aka Jackie Mason

World-famous comedian and actor Jackie Mason (b. 1931) was born Yacov Moshe Maza in Wisconsin, and grew up in Manhattan. His father and grandfather were rabbis, and so were his three brothers. At 25, Yacov was ordained as a rabbi, too, though he’d always dreamed of being a comedian. Three years later, he resigned to follow his passion (click here to see Jackie discuss his transformation from rabbi to comedian). He first performed at a New York hotel but was soon let go for ridiculing the audience – something that is central to comedy today but was unheard of at the time. He gained more fame after several acts on The Ed Sullivan Show (including the episode that debuted The Beatles). Mason went on to star in some of the most successful one-man comedy shows on Broadway, including The World According to Me and Politically Incorrect. He also acted in many films and TV shows, and even won an Emmy Award for voicing Rabbi Hyman Krustofski on The Simpsons. Off the stage, Mason has been a vocal supporter of Israel, a hard-liner who opposed the Oslo process, and is a founder of One Jerusalem, an organization that works to ensure the city remains Israel’s undivided capital. A proud Jew, describing himself “as Jewish as a matzah ball or kosher salami”, he filed (and won) a lawsuit against ‘Jews for Jesus’ for using his image, accusing the organization of fishing for converts to Christianity. Mason continues to entertain and enlighten audiences, and now has over 200 video blogs on YouTube, most of which are humorous commentaries on current events and politics.

 

Words of the Week

We have paralyzed ourselves by our sickening fear of World Opinion, which is why we find it impossible to face one simple fact: We will never win this war unless we immediately threaten to drive every Arab out of Israel if the killing doesn’t stop.
– Jackie Mason

Jew of the Week: Barbra Streisand

Top Female Singer of All Time

Barbra Streisand

Barbara Joan Streisand (b. 1942) was born in Brooklyn to parents whose families both immigrated from the former Russian Empire. Her father died soon after her birth, leaving her family in poverty. Streisand studied at the Jewish Orthodox Yeshiva of Brooklyn, where she developed her singing abilities and gave her first solo performances. Starting in her teens she sang at many nightclubs and also started to act in stage performances. Her first big break was on The Tonight Show in 1961, and in 1962 she acted in a small Broadway role. The following year, Streisand released her first music album. An instant hit, it brought her two Grammy Awards. Returning to Broadway in 1964, she made a splash with her performance in Funny Girl, which put her on the cover of TIME Magazine. Streisand would go on to release an incredible 50 studio albums. She is still the best-selling female artist of all time, and the only female in the Top 10. At one point, she only lagged Elvis Presley and The Beatles in terms of albums sold, and many of her songs still hold records. She owns a total of 8 Grammy Awards, in addition to 5 Emmy Awards, a Tony and 2 Oscars! This makes Streisand among the most decorated entertainers of all time, and also among the most diverse, achieving success in film, stage, and music. Barbra was the first woman to produce a movie that she also directed, wrote, and starred in. She is also a great philanthropist, having personally raised over $25 million for charities, and has donated millions more from her own pockets. She has been listed among the most charitable celebrities in the world. Adding to her fervent support of Israel, Streisand will be performing several sold-out shows in the Holy Land this summer.

Words of the Week

To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.
– Ralph Waldo Emerson