View Full Version : Great US Composers Not Black or Jewish?

09-30-1999, 05:15 AM
Are there any great 20th century American composers not Black or Jewish? Submitted for your approval:

Irving Berlin
George Gershwin
Aaron Copland
Jerome Kern
Richard Rogers (+Hart +Hammerstein)
Frank Loesser
Leonard Bernstein
Stephen Sondheim
Phillip Glass
Bob Dylan
Paul Simon
Randy Newman
Beastie Boys

Scott Joplin
Duke Ellington
Thelonius Monk
Miles Davis
Smokey Robinson
Marvin Gaye
Every Great Hip-Hop Artist

Not Jewish, Not Black
Cole Porter Ė the exception?
John Phillip Sousa
Bruce Springsteen

There are so many blacks and Jews I missed and so many others I didn't itís not funny--Iím sure youíll all fill in the blanks. But my point is basically that American music would suck without blacks and Jews. Comments?

Boris B
09-30-1999, 03:51 PM
How about John Cage? I don't actually know his ethnicity, but a lot of people consider him a great composer. (I don't know his music well enough to have an opinion myself.)

On the subject of Johns, some people might consider Adams and/or Williams to be great composers. I personally consider Williams to be a big ripoff of Igor Stravinsky.

How about Danny Elfman (ethnicity/greatness)?

By the way, do you think the Beastie Boys are great composers but not great hip-hop artists?

09-30-1999, 03:53 PM
How about Lenny Kravitz???

09-30-1999, 04:31 PM
Lenny Kravitz -- not great, but 1/2 Jewish & Black
John Cage -- great, and I think he is Jewish. could be wrong.
Danny Elfman -- not great, but a jew

Never heard of John Adams, but John Williams seems to me to represent exactly how lame and white-bread our musical culture would be in a WASP-ier world. John Williams, James Horner (Titanic), and John fucking Tesh.

I threw in the Beasties in the last minute just because 1) they rock and 2) they're so monolithically Jewish. Yes, they're hip-hop.

09-30-1999, 05:10 PM
Frank Zappa

09-30-1999, 05:12 PM
Also, I would hardly call Bob Dylan a great composer. Certainly a great lyricist but only a passable composer.

Plunging like stones from a slingshot on Mars.

09-30-1999, 05:22 PM
De gustibus non disputandum est.

09-30-1999, 05:47 PM
Frank Zappa -- great and Jewish
Bob Dylan -- How many people have to cover your songs before you're a great composer? His tunes may have a limited range, but his songs (lyrics + melodies) have touched 100 times more people than the collected works of Phillip Glass, an official "composer." Perhaps I should have said musicians or songwriter or performers. I had to limit it somehow. I do see your point. If I count Dylan, I have to count Woodie Guthrie, definitely not Jewish.

Blacks I Forgot
Charley Patton
Robert Johnson
Muddy Waters
Count Basie
Howlin' Wolf
Willie Dixon

Because I couldn't think of anything better.

09-30-1999, 05:51 PM
Beastie Boys???!!??

Maybe you included them just because they are Jewish.

"Its fiction, but all the facts are true!"

09-30-1999, 05:52 PM
As an aside, perhaps the answer lies in a line from the old "Golden Girls" T.V. show. (I don't know who said what):

Q: Why are so many doctors jewish?

A: Because thier mothers were!

"Its fiction, but all the facts are true!"

09-30-1999, 06:24 PM
It sounds like a Sophia line.

09-30-1999, 08:00 PM
What? No Adam Sandler?

09-30-1999, 09:43 PM
OK OK forget everyone from the last thirty years: no Beastie Boys, no rap, no Springsteen.

"Oh what is it about you that makes me so jolly?,
Is it your fifty cotton or your fifty poly?"
Red-Hooded Sweatshirt, Adam Sandler

Because I couldn't think of anything better.

# 00: The Fool
09-30-1999, 10:26 PM
OK, obscure music lovers: was Harry Partch Jewish or not?

09-30-1999, 11:09 PM
Irving Berlin.
Samuel Barber.
Charles Ives.
Rodgers and Hammerstein.
Carlos Santana.
Amy Beach.
Fred Jewell.

10-01-1999, 12:05 AM
A lot depends on your definition of "great," of course. Your list contains a lot of names that do NOT qualify as great, in my book. But never mind that- let's just settle for composers and songwriters who've had either critical acclaim or great commercial success.

In the classical arena, there are:

Charles Ives
Giancarlo Menotti

In the area of folk/country, there are:

Hank Williams
Woody Guthrie
Willie Nelson
Johnny Cash

In the traditional pop area, there's

Cole Porter
Jimmy Webb
George M. Cohan
Stephen Foster

And in rock, there are (among many others):

Buddy Holly
Boudleaux Bryant
Roy Orbison
Brian Wilson
Bruce Springsteen
John C. Fogarty
Steven Tyler/Joe Perry
Tom Petty
Don Henley
Stephen Stills
Roger McGuinn
Lindsay Buckingham

Beyond that, there are LOADS of people, whose religions/backgrounds I just don't know. And frankly, I'm too lazy and uninterested to do much looking!

10-01-1999, 03:10 AM
Frank Zappa was not Jewish. His ethnic background was a mixture of Greek, Sicilian and Syrian.

10-01-1999, 10:20 AM
Alan Lerner and Fred Loewe?
Loewe was German-born, but I have never heard either identified as Jewish.


C K Dexter Haven
10-01-1999, 12:37 PM
Hey, the reason so many musicians are Jewish is that we got natural rhythm.

10-01-1999, 03:34 PM
Umm, did you just refer to Judaism as a "race?" Surely I MUST have misread that.

10-01-1999, 04:01 PM
Flora, until we got hypersensitive on the term due to Hitlerism and civil rights, "race" could mean "ethnic group" as well as "group with biological distinctness." (Remembering a black character in a book I once read who referred to whites as "suffering from a melanin deficiency.")

I think the term can still validly be used, carefully, in both senses, so long as you realize that you are speaking ethnologically or physical-anthropologically and avoid carrying the usage over into social usage where it becomes stereotyping.

10-01-1999, 07:07 PM
"Kawlinga-- Are you sure Zappa's not Jewish? His mixed-ethnicity doesn't preclude it."

That's Kawliga, pal.

I looked it up in Zappa's autobiography. He is pretty specific about his background- primarily Sicilian with some Greek and Arab in the mix. Where did you get the idea that he was Jewish?

10-01-1999, 08:12 PM
Kawliga -- I guessed Frank Zappa was Jewish by playing the stereotype odds:

quirkiness + swarthiness + erudition = Jewish

And not to start a debate on whether one can "look Jewish" or not -- some do, some don't, most are in between -- but the man looks Jewish. Of course, I could be totally wrong. [Note that Zappa was the only one in any of the preceeding lists whose background I guessed, lest anyone think I stereotyped my way through the whole thing.]

A man, a plan, a canal: GatewayDrug

10-02-1999, 01:05 AM
tomndebb-- For some reason I thought Lerner & Loewe were English...must have been the settings of My Fair Lady and Brigadoon. Lerner is most definitely a Jewish name. Loewe was born 1904 in Vienna, and there are European Jews name Loewe.

Kawlinga-- Are you sure Zappa's not Jewish? His mixed-ethnicity doesn't preclude it.

Astorian-- I didn't mean to start everyone catologing 20th century musicians by race/ethnicity...it just seems to me that much of the vibrancy and vigor of 20th Century American popular culture (in this case music) is due to our laissez faire attitude toward outside influences, and that we take this for granted. We don't need an Academie Francaise (sp?), for example, to monitor the language. And in music, the influence of Blacks & Jews has been wildly disproportionate to their numbers in the population. Ergo, American culture would be anemic without them.

Because I couldn't think of anything better.

10-02-1999, 01:12 AM
Ned Rorem...if you like that type of Art Song. There are many non black/Jewish composers. I figure that you only want to hear about the white ones. Samuel Barber was mentioned previously. Go to The Larrouse Encyclopedia of Music and check out the America section in the very back. Most of the better known composers have been mentioned already at least for classical music. Of them, Samuel Barber is the most respected.


"People's Poet don't die, we'll kill ourselves if you do, but first we'll take off all our clothes." The Young Ones

10-02-1999, 01:36 AM
If I sounded defensive (I don't THINK I did, but I'm hardly impartial), I didn't mean to be.

No question about it, virtually ALL of the popular music genres of the 20th century (blues, jazz, rock and roll, soul, gospel, rap) are, essentially, black music. And, for a race that has never been more than about 3% of the U.S. population, Jews make up a HUGELY disproportionate number of the top songwriters and composers- in classical and theatrical music, especially.

Even the white, Gentile composers I mentioned were HUGELY influenced by black or Jewish musicians (there'd have been no Buddy Holly, Bruce Springsteen, J.C. Fogarty, etc., without Chuck Berry).

10-02-1999, 11:11 AM
There is one name I omitted from my past post, and, as a Hooiser, it is unforgivable:
Hoagy Carmichael

10-03-1999, 05:31 PM
What? No Albert Hay Malotte?

Tom Berenger: "You're not a good guy at all!"
Patrick Wayne: "I'm a LAWYER, you idiot!!"

10-04-1999, 09:31 AM
When I posted earlier, I only thought about classical composers. If you go into the folk genre almost every composer is non-black and non-Jewish. Even though I listen to folk music quite often (and like it), I don't consider it worthy of the label "composed". It is way too simplistic. It is like calling a five year old's diary a novel. It is the classical musician snootiness I suppose. I don't consider most rock, pop, rap, etc... worthy of being called "composed" either.


"People's Poet don't die, we'll kill ourselves if you do, but first we'll take off all our clothes." The Young Ones

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