spiritual music

For Blacks And Jews, A Musical Gray Area

Collection featuring black musicians singing Jewish songs masks a complicated cultural relationship.

10/12/2010
Staff Writer

In 1958, when Johnny Mathis was recording an album of African-American spirituals in homage to his black mother, he included a seemingly odd song: “Kol Nidre,” the centerpiece of the Yom Kippur service and perhaps the holiest of all Jewish prayers.

“Kol Nidre,” said Johnny Mathis, who recorded the prayer on a 1958 album, “is just a big, big emotional outpouring.”
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