The early 1920's produced many standout Jewish performers. Within the Yiddish-speaking community none were more popular than Aaron Lebedeff. Like an earlier Yiddish version of Mick Jagger he seemed to be always moving on stage and his unbounded exuberance had a way of driving audiences wild. His devil-may-care free spirit, love of life and allusions to sensual delights helped to create an exciting and appealing persona. Whether dressed in traditional Russian garb and boots or formal attire with straw hat and cane, his dynamic presence always kept him the center of attention.
He understood his audiences' nostalgia for the shtetl, the old country village, and was able use it to rouse emotions while at the same time celebrating life and love. His best known recording was Roumania, Roumania. His 78rpm recording of this song, originally produced in 1941, was widely distributed and the JSA has received hundreds of them over the years.
Another classic Lebedeff song describes the delights of romance and Coney Island. It is a comic ditty with a catchy chorus that includes a barking dog as Lebedeff belts out, Hot Dogs and Knishes! Luckily for us, his output of records during the 1920s was prolific. He recorded for Emerson, Brunswick, and Vocalion.
Lebedeff was born in Homel, White Russia, in 1873 and arrived in NYC in 1920. Thomashevsky's National Theater, located at Second Avenue and Houston Street on New York's Lower East Side, competed for Jewish talent with a growing number of other Yiddish theaters. Thomashevsky looked for talent wherever he could find it. And, in 1920 he "found" Aaron Lebedeff. Lebedeff's debut at the National Theatre in October 1920 was electrifying. He was an instant hit!
Lebedeff's success soared. His popularity grew from the mid-1920s through the 1940s and into the 1950s (through revivals). He continued to perform until his death in 1960.
The Judaica Sound Archives is pleased to highlight recordings by Aaron Lebedeff. The Lebedeff online collection contains three LPs produced by Collectors Guild and ten songs recorded on 78rpm which are in the public domain. Users of the Judaica Sound Archives Scholars Research Station have access to 186 songs on 78 rpm discs and 12 LP albums.
If you would like to donate your recordings by Aaron Lebedeff or any other Jewish performer to the JSA, please click here.
Music in this collection courtesy of Collector's Guild.