The Two Jewish Women Who Helped Write the Songs of Broadway’s Golden Age

Aug. 18 2021

As has been frequently observed, Jews played an outsized role in creating what came to be known as the great American songbook. Among the most prominent Jewish composers and librettists were Irving Berlin, George and Ira Gershwin, Jerome Kern, Lorenz Hart, and Richard Rodgers. (Oscar Hammerstein II stands out as a practicing Christian born to a Gentile mother and a Jewish father.) Terry Teachout calls attention to two other Jews who, in his view, ought to be listed alongside the others:

Golden-age American songwriting was a man’s game. Without exception, all of the major composers of popular songs who were active in the pre-rock era were men. That was pretty much true of lyricists as well—except for Dorothy Fields (1904–1974) and Carolyn Leigh (1926–1983), both of whom had trifurcated success writing musical-comedy scores, songs for movies, and free-standing pop hits.

Fields also wrote the books for several Broadway shows in collaboration with her brother Herbert, sometimes supplying lyrics as well but often working only on their books, most famously with Irving Berlin on Annie Get Your Gun (1946). Leigh, by contrast, only wrote lyrics and was best known for her pop songs, almost always written with the jazz pianist-composer Cy Coleman, many of which were introduced by such noted singers as Frank Sinatra (“Witchcraft,” 1957), Tony Bennett (“The Best Is Yet to Come,” 1959), and Peggy Lee (“When in Rome,” 1964).

[B]eneath the polished surfaces of their contrasting writing styles, Fields and Leigh (both Jewish girls from New York) were cut from the same distinctive cloth of character.

Unlike Leigh, Fields was born into a show-business family. Lew, her father, started out as a vaudeville comedian, half of Weber and Fields, a “dialect act” portraying two immigrants struggling to master English. The act had its heyday at the turn of the 20th century, after which Fields became a theatrical producer.

Read more at Commentary

More about: American Jewish History, Broadway, Popular music, Theater

Israel Is Courting Saudi Arabia by Confronting Iran

Most likely, it was the Israeli Air Force that attacked eastern Syria Monday night, apparently destroying a convoy carrying Iranian weapons. Yoav Limor comments:

Israel reportedly carried out 32 attacks in Syria in 2022, and since early 2023 it has already struck 25 times in the country—at the very least. . . . The Iranian-Israeli clash stands out in the wake of the dramatic events in the region, chiefly among them is the effort to strike a normalization deal between Israel and Saudi Arabia, and later on with various other Muslim-Sunni states. Iran is trying to torpedo this process and has even publicly warned Saudi Arabia not to “gamble on a losing horse” because Israel’s demise is near. Riyadh is unlikely to heed that demand, for its own reasons.

Despite the thaw in relations between the kingdom and the Islamic Republic—including the exchange of ambassadors—the Saudis remain very suspicious of the Iranians. A strategic manifestation of that is that Riyadh is trying to forge a defense pact with the U.S.; a tactical manifestation took place this week when Saudi soccer players refused to play a match in Iran because of a bust of the former Revolutionary Guard commander Qassem Suleimani, [a master terrorist whose militias have wreaked havoc throughout the Middle East, including within Saudi borders].

Of course, Israel is trying to bring Saudi Arabia into its orbit and to create a strong common front against Iran. The attack in Syria is ostensibly unrelated to the normalization process and is meant to prevent the terrorists on Israel’s northern border from laying their hands on sophisticated arms, but it nevertheless serves as a clear reminder for Riyadh that it must not scale back its fight against the constant danger posed by Iran.

Read more at Israel Hayom

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, Saudi Arabia, Syria