Shepping Nachas: Top Ten Jewish Musicians

By Jacob Roffe

Earlier this week, I was speaking to my roommate Jon about recent music singles. One of the top hits right now is a song called “Freaky Friday” by Lil D and Chris Brown. The song is a very comedic song, and when we looked up Lil D, we found out he is a Jewish rapper, which we found funny. It was also hilarious when I tried to explain to my parents what Lil D stands for. Anyway, the conversation shifted gears, and we began to discuss the top Jewish musicians in pop culture.  After much research and thought, I think that I came up with ten of the best, and I want to share that with you guys, the readers! Check it out, find out who you never knew was Jewish, have a laugh, and enjoy!

(Here is a Spotify playlist of the songs)


10. Idina Menzel (Let It Go)

Elsa, I mean Idina, grew up on Long Island to a pair of Jewish parents. The reason she made this list was because of her huge movie, “Frozen.” So “Let it go” if you don’t think she belongs here, I’m leaving her here. “I don’t care what they are going to say” –  just keep reading.


9. David Burd aka Lil D (Freaky Friday, $ave Dat Money)

This “professional rapper” recently took the rap game by storm with his recent single “Freaky Friday” which had cameos by Chris Brown, DJ Khaled, Ed Sheeran, and Kendall Jenner. Dave uses his Jewish wits and marketing expertise to create a new type of rap, comedic rap. Lil D and I have a special connection; we share the same birthday! Warning: his stuff is explicit.


8. Paula Abdul (Forever Your Girl)

This Sephardic Jew started her career as a cheerleader for the LA Lakers. Her pop style music mixed with her fire choreographing really displays the sheer talent she has. She is also famous for being a judge on American Idol. Fun Fact: Paula Abdul is a dog lover (like me!) and a former vegetarian (not like me!).


7. Bob Dylan (Like a Rolling Stone)

Bob Dylan won a Nobel prize for literature in music – yes you heard me right, a Nobel prize. Oh yeah, and he is Jewish. None of his songs are well-known with people our age, but I assure you, mention him to your parents, and they are sure to give you an earful. A case can be presented that he should be number 1 on this list, but I never heard his music till I looked him up, so he locks in at number 7.


6. Neil Diamond (Sweet Caroline)

A Brooklyn native and classmate of Barbra Streisand, Neil Diamond is an oldie’s classic; most of our parents listened to his music growing up. “Sweet Caroline” is a classic hit, and will be for generations.  I think “Sweet Caroline” is his most well-known song amongst millennials. He is such a classic; I felt he had to be on this list!


5. Simon and Garfunkel (The Sound of Silence, Bridge Over Troubled Water)

Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel are two Jews from Forest Hills, New York. This legendary duo is among the best artists of all time. They have a sophisticated style, and they use their sweet voices and brilliant lyrics to capture the hearts of their fans. I can’t write them justice at all – you just have to check out their songs yourself.


4. P!nk  (So What, Raise Your Glass, Sober)

P!nk is one of the most prominent female singers in pop music today. P!nk sings with attitude and edge, which causes everyone to love her catchy hits. She does whatever she wants to, from spiking her pink hair to speaking publicly about her beliefs – like every good Jewish girl. She is such an Icon; she belongs high up on the list.


3. Barbra Streisand (The Way We Were, People)

This Brooklyn born beauty is one of the distinguished female singers of all time. She is tied with Elvis Presley for fourth highest amount of number one albums in history (10). Barbra’s sweet voice hits all the high notes which kept her singing for almost six decades. Barbra is also a really talented actor, starring in the “Yentl,” a movie about her Jewish struggle for identity. I’m pretty sure she pretends to be a man in that movie… moving right along!


2. Billy Joel (Piano Man, We Didn’t Start the Fire)

Ok, fine. You got me; I got to be honest. The number one on my list wasn’t one of the first Jewish artists I thought of, but Billy Joel was, and he quickly was one of the best. William Martin Joel hailed from the Bronx, New York and grew up in Long Island; Billy Joel is one of the most iconic Jewish singers. I grew up listening to “Piano Man” because it’s my dad’s favorite song; the keys of the piano will always be ringing in my mind. He is a timeless musician, and I think he will be for all generations.


1. Drake (Hotline Bling, God’s Plan, Started From the Bottom, Hold On, We’re Going Home)

This Toronto-born rapper definitely takes the number one spot on my list because of his revolutionizing rap. Drake can rap, make a hook (a rap term for a chorus), and dance; what a triple threat! Drake has such a fear of heaven that that he wrote an entire song about hashgacha pratis “God’s plan.” Aubrey Drake Graham has 25 top ten hits and 5 number one hits, which is super impressive3.  In my opinion, I think he is the clearly the greatest Jewish artist.

Honorable Mentions: Ashley Tisdale, Alex Clare, Beastie Boys, Matisyahu, KISS (2 of them), Shlomo Carlebach, David Guetta and Adam Levine (dad is Jewish), Irving Berlin, and the Y-Studs.

Let me know your top ten when you see me around YU!

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