Bei Mir Bistu Shein- The Ghetto swingers.

 

Ghetto

Music soothes the savage beast, that is what Eric Vogel  must have thought when he send a petition to the Commander of the Theresienstadt camp on January 8, 1943  , to start a Jazz band, named the Ghetto Swingers. The band would include the following members he noted.

Dr. Brammer (piano), Dr. Kurt Bauer (percussion), Fr. Goldschmidt (guitar), Fasal (bass), Ing. Vogel (trumpet), Langer (tenor sax and clarinet), and Fr. Mautner (trombone)

pettition

As crazy as it may seem the request was granted and the band was formed.The Jewish prisoners organized in the ghetto a lively cultural scene including jazz music.

The Jazz classic “„I Got Rhythm“ by George Gershwin became the theme tune of the band. One of the prisoners favourite song was the 1932 song Bei Mir Bistu Shein composed  by  Sholom Secunda. The song is better known as Bei mir bist du schön , The Andrew Sisters had a hit with the song in 1936.

The Ghetto Singers also included guitarist Coco Schumann  Kurt Gerron and clarinetist Bedřich “Fritz” Weiss, who had joined later.

After being pressurized following the deportation of Danish Jews to Theresienstadt, the Germans permitted representatives from the Danish Red Cross and the International Red Cross to visit in June 1944

After the Red Cross inspection, Commandant Rahm instructed Gerron to make a propaganda film.  Filming took place over eleven days between 16 August and 11 September 194.The Ghetto Swingers participated in this Nazi propaganda film “Theresienstadt: A Documentary Film from the Jewish Settlement Area” which is also known as albeit with the  erroneous name “The Fuehrer gave the Jews a city.”

After the camp closed, the members of the jazz band were sent to Auschwitz.

In Auschwitz Coco Schumann had to play for the SS hangmen, “for hours and hours every day, especially when they tattooed the new arrivals, because they considered it such boring work. Four members survived among those 4 were Vogel, Schumann and Roman

Ending this blog with the aforementioned ‘Bei Mir Bistu Shein’ played by the Ghetto Swingers.

 

 

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Sources

You Tube

Geni

Huffpost

 

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The Eurovision Song contest- The bizarre songs.

Lordi

No matter what you think of the Eurovision song contest, there is no denying it is a global cultural event. It might not be to everyone’s liking but it is a global cultural event nonetheless.

And it is truly global not only because it goes out live to nations across the world, bit also the last few years Australia has entered the competition.

Even last year’s winner,Israel, although Israel has strong historical,political and economical ties to Europe, geographically it is technically in Asia. But it does ly at the junction of three continents: Europe, Asia and Africa.

However this blog is not a blog about geopolitical situations but as alluded to a blog about the more bizarre songs which competed in the song contest throughout its history. I literally could pick dozens of songs  but I am sticking to the ones that stood out most for me.

Staring with probably the most bizarre band ,Lordi from Finland with their song “Hard Rock Hallelujah”, what makes this even more bizarre it actually won the competition in 2006.

 

In 1979 the Germans tried to win the contest with the band “Dschinghis Khan” who had a song with the very original name “Dschinghis Khan”. They reached the 4th place.

In 2003 the Belgians came up with the idea to enter the contest with a song in a made up language. The band “Urban Trad” the song “Sanomi” They reached the 2nd place.

If the contest was measured on the most bizarre songs Belgium would definitely be the winners. In 1980 the band “Telex” entered with the song “Euro-Vision”( I wonder where they got the idea for the title).It ended on the 17th place.

In 2007 the Ukraine came up with a song in Ukranian,German,English and some made up words.But to be honest there wasn’t that much text really. The song “Dancing Lasha Tumbai” the artist “Verka Serduchka” Funny enough it also reached the 2nd place.

Ending with the nation that won the Eurovision the most. Ireland won the competition 7 times. But I don’t think that anyone expected a Turkey to win the competition and yet in 2008 Ireland’s national broadcaster,RTE, did just that. They send a turkey named Dustin asking Europe for 12 points, Hence the title “Irlande Douze Points” strangely enough it didn’t reach the finals.

 

On  May 14 the whole circus starts again with the the 2nd semi finale on May 16th and the Grand Finale on May 18th.

Pssst, come here!Although I am supposed to be a rocker and a serious music fan, I will be watching it, but don’t tell anyone.

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Record Store day

record

This is a small deviation from my usual more dramatic historical blogs, but since today is marked as Record Store day I felt compelled to do a blog celebrating this day.

Record Store day is a bi-annual event inaugurated in 2008 and held on one Saturday every April and every “Black Friday” in November to “celebrate the culture of the independently owned record store”

As a young man I spent a lot of time and money in my local record syore called “Limburg’s platenhuis” which means Records house of Limburg. In Geleen. It wasn’t the only one where I bought my weekly and sometimes daily dose of music, but it was the one I frequented the most.

Nowadays I feel nostalgic thinking back to those days, and I feel sorry for youngsters now who often rely on downloads and/or streaming services.

Nothing beats a good customer service in a shop. Especially a pro active customer service from staff who appreciate you buying goods in their shop.

To illustrate what I mean with pro active customer service I will use an example from “Limburgs Platenhuis”

I walked in one Saturday afternoon not thinking of buying anything, just browsing. Shortly after I had entered the shop one of the sales staff called me to the counter. She told me ” I kept this album aside for you when it came in, I reckon you might like it. Have a listen to it”

She then proceeded by putting on the album ‘Long Cold Winter’ by the American Hard Rock band ‘Cinderella’

Cinderella

She was right I did like the album indeed. So much so that I didn’t mind parting with some money in order to purchase this compilation of great Rock songs.

That is the kind of service you just don’t get on line or even in shops nowadays.

All that is left for me to do now is to leave you with one of the singles of the aforementioned album. Enjoy!

 

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A violin to silence the violence.

vIOLIN

An instrument is not just a thing used to create music. Anyone who owns and plays an instrument knows that at some stage it becomes a part of you.

It is no longer just a physical entity but it becomes filled with a bit of your soul.

I do not know who owned this violin which survived one of the death camps. I don’t even know in which death camp it was found.

But I do know that a part of the soul of its owner is linked to the instrument.

It probably was played when innocent victims were taken from the trains, often close to death. Only to become witness to even more violence which they were subjected to.

The violin undoubtedly broke the sounds of the violence,albeit for a split second.

Or it could have been played when women and children were paraded to the gas chambers. Although the sound of the violin was used in a cynical way it was also a distraction for a short time.

I can imagine the tears of a young virtuoso playing a piece of music knowing that those who passed him by were destined for a certain death. But he also knew that the same fate would await him too.

Despite that and despite the fact that the criminals who forced him to play, only wanted to create a false illusion, pretending all would be fine, he still played and tried to play his instrument in the most pleasing manner.

He’d use his violin to silence the violence, even if it was for a fleeting moment.

Beat it- The guitar solo

beat it

The guitar solo on Michael Jackson’s “Beat it” could have sounded completely different and perhaps it would not have become the massive hit it was if it wasn’t for Quincy Jones’s persistence.

Eddie van Halen was  relaxing at home one day in the summer of 1982, where he suddenly received a call, The caller claimed to be Quincy Jones. Eddie thinking it was a prank, kindly told to caller to leave by using 2 words including 3 f’s. One at the start of the first word and 2 at the end of the 2nd word(I don’t mean Funny Stuff). He then put down the phone.

However he caller called 4 more times, van Halen then realized that it was indeed the legendary music producer Quincy Jones.

Quincy had just working with Michael Jackson on his mega selling album “Thriller” and he wanted Eddie van Halen to play the solo on “Beat it”

Quincy Jones and Michale Jackson took a skeleton version of Beat it up to Eddie van Halen’s place. After Eddie van Halen did some minor adjustment to the part of the song, he recorded the solo and he did it in one take.

He did not charge anything for it either, no fee no royalties, totally free. Well kind of, legend has it he did ask for a six pack of beer.

Eddie van Halen wasn’t the only legendary guitarist involved in the project, Steve Lukather from the rock band Toto also worked on the Thriller album.

 

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I betcha you didn’t know they were Dutch-The Music edition.

nl

This is slight deviation from my usual heavier history blogs. Every once in a while something lighthearted is needed.

The Netherlands, a small country in the Northwest of Europe. Known for great painters and footballers and for Tulips and windmills and a lot of other things.

It is however not so much known for its music.and to an extend rightfully so. Because lets face it, the majority of Dutch music just isn’t great. But there have been some bits of music  which have become global classics and a lot of people,including Dutch, don’t know the origin lies in the Netherlands. Even some of the worlds biggest acts have some Dutch connection.

Starting off Down Under

Harry Vanda

vanda

The name Harry Vanda on its own will mean very little to most, but connect it to the name George Young and it becomes a different story.

Born Johannes Hendrikus Jacob van den Berg , the young musician Harry emigrated to Australia in 1963. Where he met George Young and teamed up to form the band “the Easybeats”  they achieved a global hit with the song “Friday on my Mind” with the Easybeats.

But it was in their songwriting/producing capacity they achieved the biggest successes, Songs like “Love is in the air” and “Standing in the rain” performen by John Paul Young became massive hits. However the biggest impact they had in the music industry was as producers of the band formed by George Young’s brothers,Malcolm and Angus,AC/DC.

This is one of my favourite Vanda/Young productions. It is the duo in the incarnation of the band “Flash in the Pan” the song “Hey St.Peter”

 

Diesel

diesel

This band started off as more of a hobby project  of former members of legendary Dutch symphonic rock band Kayak. In 1981 their song Sausalito Summernightgot to No.25 in the US Charts and No.1 in Canada. It also did very well in a number of European countries.

Shocking Blue

venus

Shocking Blue are probably responsible for one of the biggest hits, if not the biggest hit ever written by a Dutch band. The song “Venus” still gets an awful lot of airplay in a variety of versions and if it’s not on radio it is on TV, where the song is often used in commercials ranging from products like yogurt to razors for ladies.

This is the original from 1969

 

Dave

dave

This one is a bit difficult to definee, I suppose the best way to describe Dave is a French Disco chansonier, but he wan’t French but Dutch.Born Wouter Otto Levenbach in Amsterdam. He had a string of hits in French, the most successful song  Dansez Maintenant. Most people in the Netherlands don’t know he is Dutch.

The George Baker Selection

george baker

Some bands need only to be heard and not to be seen, well at least that is what I think about this band and especially the singer George Baker aka Hans Bouwens, his fake smile just annoys me. But having that said he is responsible for a massive hit which had an unexpected revival due to the Quentin Tarantino movie “Reservoir Dogs” the son of course is “Little Green Bag” first released in 1970.

 

Pussycat

pussycat

This is like a country and western music fairy tale, Three sisters, telephone operators form a rural part of the Netherlands, the south east of the country. They team up with some musicians and a song writer/lyricist and create a classic Country song which topped the charts in most countries worldwide. A song of a river which they hadn’t seen. The river Mississippi.

 

Caro Emerald

caro

Now before I get accused on only focusing on 20th century music. This one sneaked in a few years ago. Caro Emerald born Caroline Esmeralda van der Leeuw had a big world wide hit with the Jazz song “A Night like This” which was released in 2009.

To me the quality sign of approval for any musician is when they appear on “Later with Jools Holland” on the BBC. Caro appeared on Jools Holland’s new Year’s eve edition of his show in 2011.

 

I could have added the more commonly known dutch artists like Van Halen,The Golden Earring, 2 Unlimited, DJ Tiesto and Andre Rieu, but I think this is a good compilation of bands and musicians most people outside of the Netherlands know are Dutch.

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The laughing Gnome-Happy Birthday David Bowie.

bowie

January 8, 1947 probably has not much of a historical significance,however it is the day which saw the birth of a truly musical genius,David Robert Jones, aka David Bowie.

But in order to   become this musical icon he had to make a few odd detours. Before Space Oddity,Ziggy Strdust,Life on Mars, Let’s dance, etc, he had to learn his craft by performing as a 15 year old in a band with the name ” the Konrads”.

It was 2 years later though with another band named “the King Bees” David Bowie’s talents were first captured on a record with a song titled “Liza Jane”.

However this song did not become a hit,also the fact it was credited as  Davie Jones with the King-Bees didn’t help, because in 1964 another Davy Jones was already a well established name as the singer of the Monkees.

In order David Robert Jones changed his name  after the 19th-century American pioneer James Bowie and the knife he had popularized.

With the legend of  David Bowie was born. Well kind of, there was just one more literally small obstacle to overcome before reaching the stellar heights the David Bowie reached. The obstacle was called “the Laughing Gnome” although I love David Bowie’s music a lot that song released as a novelty single on Deram Records in 1967 was awful and an assault to the ears. But hey, all is forgiven for David Bowie did become one of THE musical icons of the 20th century.

 

Happy Birthday David

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When Hitler killed one of the best performers of his favourite music.

gOTTLIEB

All deaths during the Holocaust were awful but the death of Henriette Gottlieb is particularly poignant. Some sources say she died on January 2 1942, other sources say she died in 1943.

One thing that is fairly certain is that she died in the Lodz Ghetto.

Lodz

Henriette Gottlieb should have been known as one of the best Opera Sopranos ever but yet she all but forgotten.

Hitler’s favourite composer was Wagner ,Gottlieb was a particularly noted Wagnerian interpreter, and sang at the Bayreuth Festivals (1927-30)

She performed the Wagnerian role of Brünnhilde in the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées, Paris, in a 1928 performance of Der Ring der Nibelung.Following the Nazi ban on Jewish performers, she lived in Berlin until she was deported to the Łódź Ghetto ( in 1941. According most sources she was murdered in Lodz on January 2 1942.

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Sources

Opera Nederland

Wikipedia Germany

MUGi-Musik &Gender inm Internet.

 

Dance the Old Fashioned Way-Musicians we said goodbye to in 2018.

piano

2018 has been a year where we had to say goodbye to a great number of musicians. Here are just some of them and some of their music. May they all rest in peace.

7 January:France Gall

 

February 1: Dennis Edwards

 

March 12: Craig Mack

 

April 20: Tim Bergling  aka Avicii

 

7 May: Maurane

 

June 18: XXXTentacion

 

July 8:Tab Hunter

 

August 16,: Aretha Franklin

 

14 September: Anneke Grönloh

 

October 1: Charles Aznavour

 

October 24:Tony Joe White

 

November 15: Roy Clark

 

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The Buchenwald Song and the brutal murder of the man who wrote it.

Song

Fritz Löhner-Beda was  an  Austrian born Jewish librettist, lyricist and writer. Born Wildenschwert, Bohemia but he grew up in one of Europe’s most cultural cities,Vienna. Alas Vienna’s culture was to become tainted to a degree.

In the 1920s, Löhner-Beda became one of the most popular and  sought-after librettists and lyricists in Vienna. This popularity though meant nothing on April 1,1938, less then 3 weeks after the Anschluss, (annexation of Austria by the Nazis).

AH ANSCHLUSS

On April 1, 1938 Löhner-Beda was arrested and deported to Dachau concentration camp.His Viennese neighbors and fan base did very little to help him.Just over 5 months later on September 23 1938 he was deported to Buchenwald.

While in Buchenwald, at the end of 1938, he wrote Das Buchenwald lied(the Buchenwald song) together with Hermann Leopoldi an Austrian born Jewish composer. Below is the text to the chorus of the song

“O Buchenwald, ich kann dich nicht vergessen,
weil du mein Schicksal bist.
Wer dich verließ, der kann es erst ermessen,
wie wundervoll die Freiheit ist!
O Buchenwald, wir jammern nicht und klagen,
und was auch unser Schicksal sei,
wir wollen trotzdem Ja zum Leben sagen,
denn einmal kommt der Tag, dann sind wir frei!”

English Translation:

“O Buchenwald, I cannot forget you,
because you are my fate.
Only he who leaves you can appreciate
how wonderful freedom is!
O Buchenwald, we don’t cry and complain;
and whatever our destiny may be,
we nevertheless shall say ‘yes’ to life:
for once the day comes, we shall be free!”

Viktor Frankl used the line “trotzdem Ja zum Leben sagen”(nevertheless shall say ‘yes’ to life) as the German title for his book “Man’s Search for Meaning”. written in 1946.

ja zum leben

On October 17, 1942,  Löhner-Beda was deported to the Monowitz concentration camp, a sub-camp of Auschwitz. The SS established the camp in October 1942 at the behest of I.G. Farben executives to provide slave labor for their Buna Werke (Buna Works) industrial complex.

monowitz

On December 4,1942 Fritz Löhner-Beda had already been ill. he was accused of not working hard enough. Because of this he was beaten to death by a Kapo. Just imagine that, beaten to death that is a different kind of evil. I know the Kapo’s were forced to do bad things in order to survive themselves, but beating someone to death that takes a particular kind of person.

So many people were killed during the Holocaust but with that also so much cultural heritage has vanished.

Fritz Löhner-Beda could have contributed so much more for the betterment of humankind.Who knows how many classic songs he could have written, or how many more award winning plays and screenplays. His death didn’t only end his life it also deprived the world of a great artist.

Fritz

Ending this blog with a version of the song and one more time the line “we nevertheless shall say ‘yes’ to life” Let’s do that , let us all say yes to life despite whatever comes our way, We owe to Fritz and to ourselves.

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