New documentary sheds light on the ultimate outsider.
Special To The Jewish Week
Among the myriad ways in which Jews became Americans in the 20th century, one of the most felicitous was their involvement in the creation of popular music. The overwhelming presence of Jewish-Americans in the pages of the Great American Songbook is proverbial. Even a gilt-edged WASP like Cole Porter prided himself on “writing Jewish.”
When two Jewish songwriters teamed up with a former “Shabbos goy” in 1956, it helped change the face of popular music.
The “Shabbos goy” was Elvis Presley (who died 24 years ago last week).
When Elvis covered “Hound Dog,” a rhythm-and-blues song composed by Mike Stoller and Jerry Leiber — originally recorded in 1953 by Big Mama Thornton — it propelled the young Presley’s career to new heights.
But perhaps equally as important, it brought Leiber and Stoller to the attention of top music executives.