To Me You’re Beautiful
Ashkenazi Jewish contributions to popular music over the last century have defined and redefined Jewish cultural identity in both the Jewish and goyish imagination. The use of, or lack of, cultural signifiers in songs spanning a range of genres traces a path upon which individuals and peoples push and pull between insider and outsider, assimilation and tradition.
Yiddish—the historical conversational language of Ashkenazi Jews—had about 11 million speakers before World War II. Six million or so of these were killed in World War II; many of the ones that were left, hoping for safety in a Western (American, Australian, etc) identity, became hesitant to speak the language too loudly. About 600,000 people worldwide know it now.
To Me You’re Beautiful combines the history of Jewish contributions to American music—with a particular focus on the 1937 hit Bei Mir Bistu Shein—with Yiddish language practice to unravel the ways historical, linguistic, and popular culture might be carried towards a contemporary Jewish identity.
To Me You’re Beautiful (2020) press release image.
[Read To Me You’re Beautiful]