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
“Channah From Havana,” by The Barry Sisters
The Barry Sisters were versatile entertainers who from the late 1930s well into the 1950s were best-known for “Yiddish Melodies in Swing,” the live radio show that made them famous, and the show’s “Swingtette” featuring clarinetist Dave Karras kept old-world Jewish culture alive and accepted by the mainstream in the years before Fiddler on the Roof. “Channah From Havana” is a fascinating frisson that recalls a time when Cuba was on the vacation itinerary of affluent Jews. In one of many adulterous fantasies here, Channah goes on a cruise without her husband, falls for a Latin lover who turns out to be Sam Shapiro, just another Jewish man whose fancy footwork on and off the dancefloor made him catnip to the lonely or merely adventurous Mrs. Katzes of the world.
An investigation into ‘Antichrist Kramer,’ SSP Records, and other labels suggests a history of real-world violence and bigotry