Celebrity Jews

Happy New Year!

Jerome Kern

New Year’s Eve is a time for music, so here are some musical notes spanning many genres. Let’s start with Tony Bennett’s new album, “The Silver Lining: The Songs of Jerome Kern.” Kern (1885-1945), along with Irving Berlin (1888-1989) and others, made vital contributions to the Great American Songbook, an era when many classic tunes were written; many of them are performed on New Year’s Eve. While Bennett doesn’t cover “Ol’ Man River,” Kern’s famous song from “Show Boat,” the CD does include such Kern classics as the Oscar-winning “The Way You Look Tonight” (with lyrics by Dorothy Field, 1905-1974, considered one of history’s best female lyricists). By the way, Bennett’s daughter Antonia, 41, is also a singer; she converted to Judaism and is expecting her first child with her Israeli husband. They belong to a Los Angeles Orthodox shul.

A New Year’s l’chaim to singer Gogi Grant, who recently turned 91. She’s best known for “The Wayward Wind,” a pop-country crossover hit (written by two Jewish guys) that knocked Elvis out of the No. 1 spot in 1956. Grant, born Myrtle Arinsberg, was long married to Robert Rifkind, 90, a prominent Beverly Hills attorney and a big donor to Jewish and secular causes. She retired in 1967 to raise their two children. Since the late ’80s, Grant has performed in concerts (as recently as 2013) and on PBS oldies specials.

Greg Kurstin, 46, a top producer and songwriter, must be smiling at the enormous success of Adele’s comeback record “25.” The singer suffered from writer’s block as she began work on her third studio album, until she sought Kurstin’s help early in 2015. Kurstin, a multi-Grammy nominee, has produced and co-written tunes with many top acts, including Beck and Kelly Clarkson. He and Adele clicked, and together they wrote the current hit single “Hello.” “25” is the biggest-selling album of 2015 and Adele’s upcoming North American tour is already sold out.

Charlie Puth

Charlie Puth, 24, also had a good year. Here’s an excerpt from a Dec. 10 Entertainment Weekly profile: “A year ago, Charlie Puth didn’t even have a record deal. But since then, he signed the dotted line with Atlantic in January, has been nominated for three Grammys, broke [into the] Billboard Hot 100 … [and] can now add one more accolade to his name: Golden Globe nominee.” The nominated song, “See You Again,” was written by Puth and rapper Wiz Khafalia for the movie “Furious 7.” Puth told EW: “I always told myself when I was younger if I ever got nominated for a Grammy, I’d call my mother and tell her first and I did that. She’s my Jewish mother, so she was like, ‘I’m not surprised. You worked hard for this!’ ”

The ABC musical comedy series “Galavant” returns for a second, 10-episode season at 8 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 3. Two back-to-back episodes will run each Sunday for five weeks. The songs are by Oscar winner Alan Menken, 66 (“Beauty and the Beast,” “The Little Mermaid,” “Aladdin”), and Tony nominee Glenn Slater, 47 (“Little Mermaid,” Broadway version).

 

Seinfeld in the driver’s seat

Jerry Seinfeld

A new season of Jerry Seinfeld’s web series “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee” started on Dec. 30, and the first guest was President Barack Obama. Seinfeld, 61, played four sold-out performances in Tel Aviv on Dec. 19-20. A detailed account by an American audience member has this gem: “He did drop some Israel-related humor, saying in one spot-on joke that Israelis have two answers to any question: ‘No problem’ or ‘That’s impossible.’ ”

Seinfeld grew up in the town next to my Long Island hometown. While I rode around in my parents’ car, I’d see billboards with a tag at the bottom, “Signs by Kal Seinfeld,” and I thought to myself: “Is this a joke?” No joke: Jerry’s father, Julian Kal Seinfeld, was a sign manufacturer with his own sense of humor, naming his company Kal Signfeld Signs.

Columnist Nate Bloom, an Oaklander, can be reached at middleoftheroad1@aol.com.

Nate Bloom

Nate Bloom writes the "Celebrity Jews" column for J.