From Publishers Weekly
In this welcome addition to the annals of punk, journalist Beeber does a commendable job of illuminating the Jewish backgrounds of many of punk's pioneers, including Joey Ramone (Jeffrey Hyman), Tommy Ramone (Tamas Erdelyi), as well as Lou Reed, Lenny Kaye, Blondie's Chris Stein, CBGB owner Hilly Kristal right up to the heir-apparent to the Jewish-punk crown, the Beastie Boys. The scene was centered in 1970s New York's Jewish Lower East Side, so it's fitting that punk might have a strong Jewish tradition. Beeber ably cobbles together interesting biographical sketches of the preeminent Jewish punks, rather astutely placing the punk rockers among the pantheon of Jewish entertainers, including the controversial comic Lenny Bruce. He also neatly ties the irreverent punk ethos to the American Jewish experience. Still, the book overreaches at times, straining under the weight of too much tangential cultural history and an overly academic tone. Beeber, however, has clearly done his homework, with more than 100 primary interviews and a clear grasp of the Jewish traditions within which he places punk. And just in time: with "Jewish-owned punk landmark" CBGB slated to close on September 30, Beeber's book will open a hidden chapter for many fans. (Oct.)
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From Al Jolson and Irving Berlin to the Brill Building and beyond, Jewish influence on American popular music is well documented. Less known is the role Jews played in the seventies New York punk-rock scene. Profiling performers Lou Reed, Jonathan Richman, Lenny Kaye, and the Ramones as well as key journalists, club owners, managers, and producers, Beeber discloses that prime movers in creating, supporting, and popularizing punk were Jews. Jewish identity is a touchy subject, however, and Richard Hell, aka Richard Meyers, refused interviews for the book because he disassociates himself from Judaism (Beeber insists he is still defined by it, anyway). Beeber draws a line from confrontational comic Lenny Bruce to Reed to the Beastie Boys and John Zorn. As perennial outsiders, especially as immigrants, urban Jews have traditionally straddled the sacred and the secular, adopting their new homeland's popular culture and adapting it with comedy, anger, and social commentary. An interview with Malcolm McLaren and an attempt to explain the Jewish punk fascination with Nazi imagery also prove fascinating. Benjamin SegedinCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved