I know there will be people who might think the title of the post is quite disrespectful, but it is far from it. The post will reflect how close and relevant the Holocaust still is.
So many great rock songs would never have been written or recorded if the Nazis had succeeded in their plans to murder all Jews. I have done a post on Kiss before, both Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley are children of Holocaust survivors, as is Billy Joel.
However, there are so many other rock musicians who have a direct connection to the Holocaust. Below are just a few of them.
Bass player Bob Glaub may not be a household name, but check the credits on Rod Stewart’s album “Atlantic Crossing” and John Lennon’s “Rock & Roll.”
He is a bass player and session musician. He has played with such artists and bands as Journey, Steve Miller Band, John Fogerty, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, Neil Diamond, Jerry Lee Lewis, Ringo Starr, Dusty Springfield, Aaron Neville, Linda Ronstadt, Stevie Nicks, Jackson Browne, Warren Zevon, Donna Summer, John Lennon, Rod Stewart, Crosby, Stills & Nash, Bee Gees. He has also accompanied Dwight Yoakam — on concert tours. He’s the bass player on Adam Sandler’s, “Hanukkah Song.”
His mother, a Hungarian-speaking Czech, and Glaub’s mother, Edith, were working as a nanny in Budapest when Hitler’s troops swept through Hungary in 1944. His father, from the same Czech village as his mother, spent the war in a series of slave labour camps in Ukraine. Glaub’s parents were reunited after the war and immigrated to the United States in 1949. (His father, Zoltan, paid their way by helping to paint the ship.)
One of the most iconic rock classics is Procol Harum”s “A Whiter Shade of Pale.” The song’s most innovative feature is its unique pairing of musical source material from Baroque composer Johann Sebastian Bach and from soul singer Percy Sledge’s hit, “When A Man Loves A Woman.
“We skipped the light fandango… .“Her face, at first just ghostly, turned a whiter shade of pale” — were the product of the band’s co-founder and poet-in-residence, Keith Reid, one of only a handful of nonperforming members of rock bands.
Reid’s father, Irwin Reid, a Viennese lawyer fluent in a half-dozen languages, was one of over 6,000 Jews arrested in Vienna during Kristallnacht on November 9 and 10, 1938. Like most Viennese Jews, he was transported to Dachau. He was, however, released several months later after promising to leave the country; with his younger brother, he promptly immigrated to England, leaving behind his parents, whom he would never see or hear from again and whose fate remains a mystery.
Canadian Rock band ‘Rush’ Geddy Lee’s (born Gary Lee Weinrib) parents were Jewish Holocaust survivors from Poland who had survived the ghetto in Starachowice (where they met), followed by their imprisonments at Auschwitz and later Dachau and Bergen-Belsen concentration camps during the Holocaust and World War II. They were in their teens when they were initially imprisoned at Auschwitz. “It was kind of surreal pre-teen shit”, says Lee, describing how his father bribed guards to bring his mother shoes. After a period, his mother was transferred to Bergen-Belsen and his father to Dachau. When the war ended four years later, and the Allies liberated the camps, Morris set out in search of Manya and found her at a Bergen-Belsen displaced person camp. They married there and eventually emigrated to Canada.
In 1984, Geddy Lee together with Neil Peart and Alex Lifeson wrote “Red Sector A” is a song that provides a first-person account of a nameless protagonist living in an unspecified prison camp setting.
Geddy Lee explained the genesis of the song in an interview:
“The seeds for the song were planted nearly 60 years ago in April 1945 when British and Canadian soldiers liberated the Nazi concentration camp Bergen-Belsen. Lee’s mother, Manya (now Mary) Rubenstein, was among the survivors. (His father, Morris Weinrib, was liberated from the Dachau concentration camp a few weeks later.) The whole album “Grace Under Pressure,” says Lee, who was born Gary Lee Weinrib, “is about being on the brink and having the courage and strength to survive.”
Though ‘Red Sector A,’ like much of the album from which it comes, is set in a bleak, apocalyptic future, what Lee calls “the psychology” of the song comes directly from a story his mother told him about the day she was liberated.
I once asked my mother her first thoughts upon being liberated,” Lee says during a phone conversation. “She didn’t believe [liberation] was possible. She didn’t believe that if there was a society outside the camp how they could allow this to exist, so she believed society was done in.”
Just think of the impact the Holocaust had on the arts and music and how much worse it could have been.