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Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love: ‘It’s a Scream How Levine Does the Rhumba’

A new compilation revives the once ubiquitous, now mostly forgotten Latin-Jewish connection of the 1940s to the ’80s

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“My Yiddishe Mambo,” by Mickey Katz and His Orchestra
Putting a Latin spin on “My Yiddishe Mama” must have been low-hanging fruit for master parodist Mickey Katz. The father of actor Joel Grey and grandfather of Jennifer Grey was also the spiritual forefather of the likes of Allan Sherman and “Weird” Al Yankovic. In the tense post-Holocaust, post-Rosenberg 1950s, when Anglicized name changes and unaccented English became the road to assimilation, Katz laid on the Yiddish accent and shtetl roots with a brazenness that made him “too Jewish” for some radio stations and promoters. On the plus side, he was a brilliant klezmer clarinet and saxophone player and had access to top-flight musicians to give his parodies such as “Davy Crockett” (“Duvid Crockett, king of Delancey Street”) and “My Yiddishe Mama” their lasting zetz. Mad Magazine’s meshugenah embrace of Yiddish-jargon in its early days probably owes much to the proud wit of Katz.

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Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love: ‘It’s a Scream How Levine Does the Rhumba’

A new compilation revives the once ubiquitous, now mostly forgotten Latin-Jewish connection of the 1940s to the ’80s