Rare video of Allan Sherman with Dean Martin and Vic Damone doing a number of great parodies
ALLAN SHERMAN – TOP PARODY COMIC’s
GENIUS APPRECIATED MORE TODAY
I can still see myself, as a kid just over 50 years ago, sitting around the card table in the the family living room with relatives intently listening to the ‘hot’ new album by ALLAN SHERMAN, ‘My Son The Folksinger, in 1962.
The moment has had a lasting imprint on my brain. I had no idea what the ‘Drapes of Roth’ were in Sherman’s parody of ‘Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory,’ nor what he was talking about when what resulted when ‘My Zelda (instead of Matilda) found her romance when I broke the zipper in my pants’ fashioned from the Belafonte song ‘Matilda.’ All I knew is that I loved the music, which stood on its own and remains today a classic time capsule of the early 1960s.
Many years later I came to appreciate the lyrics, too. The art of music parody is all but non-existent today save for, perhaps . Wierd Al . Looking back 50 years gives new appreciation to the work of Allan Sherman
Now, thanks to a new biography from Mark Cohen, “Overweight Sensation,’ http://www.allanshermanbiography.com/,
folks over 50 are rediscovering the genius of Allan Sherman,
the top music parody writer of all time (with all due respect to the great Weird Al Yankovich) and a man who helped make Jewish humour popular in mainstream American culture.
According to Cohen, ‘My Son The Folksinger,’ which was Sherman’s first and biggest of seven albums, was considered too ethnic by early critics, who thought it could only be a hit in the large Jewish populations of New York, Miami and Los Angeles. Yet, surprisingly -before we heard the term ‘viral’ in the widespread use of today- Sherman’s popularity in the Jewish burgs spread quickly and became mutli-cultural, a No. 1 hit from the Borscht Belt to the Bible Belt; in my opinion, people like ourselves (at the time) who didn’t understand or appreciate the lyrics probably liked the music in its own right. Even President Kennedy was a fan of Sherman’s (see picture of the two together).
Sherman’s songs were not only funny but they were commentaries on the society and pop culture of the day with Sherman specializing in the new suburbs (eg ‘Suburbia’ on My Son the Nut Album ) as well as the Jewish ethnic humour. And, looking back 50 years many of his thoughts ring true, today, what with people returning to the cities from the suburbs, the growing dissatisfaction of ‘animation’ as in the song of the name on same My Son the Nut album, which , though not as big as ‘Ny Son the Folksinger,’ was still a number one album for weeks in July and August, 1963 and featured the big hit, ‘Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah.’
A song like ‘ Shake Hands With Your Uncle Max,’ in which Sherman pokes fun at Jewish names such as ‘Stein with an ‘i’ and Styne with a ‘y’ actually helped make Jewish names acceptable. Jews began to stop anglicizing their names.
Surprisingly, according to Cohen, Sherman’s big, initial success was based solely on the ethnic humour as his biggest single, ‘Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah’ , didn’t come out until a year later, in July, 1963, when it, too, was a No. 1 hit, but having little to do with ethnic sterotypes but only the fear of being sent off to summer camp. I remember my own camp experiences and becoming so infatuated with this song that I memorized all the lyrics
Allan Sherman’s personal life was a mess. The child of a broken home and dysfunctional parents who were in show business themselves, he lived mostly with his grandparents as a child in the Jewish section of Chicago. The obese Sherman overindulged in not only food , but later got carried away in his successes and had multiple affairs and indulged in sex orgies. Yet , on a talent level, he continued putting out great material; besides his seven albums, he had his own TV show , wrote several books and even a broadway musical before he passed, prematurely, at age 49 in 1973 of a heart attack brought on by his overweight and several other serious health issues.
Today you can find most of Sherman’s work on Youtube, including long out of print or unreleased material which Cohen has posted on his Youtube channel (search ‘Mark Cohen Allan Sherman’) and find such great novelties as ’76 Sol Shermans’ based on ’76 Trombones.’
Sherman never matched the brilliance or popularity of his first album, MSTFS, but had a number of non-ethnic stand out songs later in his career. His take on Mary Poppins’ ‘Chim chim cheree’ poked fun at the commercials of the day and ‘Good advice’ looks at what might have been had the great inventions been altered by the great inventors, as follow . For Allan Sherman he might have had a song called ‘Good Timing,’ while living during the Golden Era of musicals and popular culture he was able to parlay the music of the day into his own unique brand of parodies, both comedic and poignant at the same time, while even having a positive influence on the culture despite his many personal flaws. Lots of Sherman’s songs are timeless and some were good prognosticators of things to come like ‘Animation’on My Son The Nut LP. Imagine if he were alive today with the digital divide today! sherman tribute Unlike lesser known , short-lived yet talented comic careers of contemporaries like Totie Fields and Jackie Vernon, Sherman achieved a distinct creative niche over a full decade and should go down in history as one of the great comedians if not music performers; the fact that he can’t be classified fully into a distinct category has relegated Sherman to the ‘bargain bins’ of music shopping but, perhaps , with the new book we’ll see a deserved resurgence of appreciation for Sherman. Author MARK COHEN will be speaking about Allan Sherman and his book @ Temple Sinai in Oakland June 20. Also , an interesting hour long interview here with Cohen and Rabbi Saul Solomon Finally, ‘Lost Parodies – There is NOthing Like A Lox’ was recently released and available here