Some of the biggest rock stars in history happen to be Jewish by birth or conversion.
Given the rich musical tradition of the Jewish people, this is hardly surprising. Songs are used in times of celebration, joy and sadness. The sacred scriptures are spread out loud by chanting rather than simply being recited.
Rabbi Nachman, a prominent historical figure in the Hasidic Jewish movement, once said that “melody is the refinement of the spirit that separates the human spirit from the animal spirit.”
Many rock stars raised in Jewish culture have noted how their upbringing influenced their career paths. Art Garfunkel and Trevor Rabin of Yes were among the up-and-coming rockers who got their taste for performing by singing at their local synagogue. David Lee Roth, meanwhile, saw his success in Van Halen as an opportunity to break traditional Jewish stereotypes.
Of course, not all Jewish rockers stayed true to their faith. Lou Reed, Billy Joel and Buzz Osborne of the Melvins are among those who have openly admitted to being disconnected from the culture. Then there’s the case of bandleader Robbie Robertson. He did not reveal that he was Jewish until he was about 12, when his mother revealed the identity of his birth father.
In “The Chanukah Song,” comedian Adam Sandler famously rocked a long list of Jewish celebrities from music and entertainment. We don’t have the talent to write our own songs, so instead we’ve featured 35 Jewish rock stars in the list below.
Jewish rock stars
Rock Quarrels. Simon vs. Garfunkel