Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Remembering Cantor Seymour Rockoff and His Funny Jewish Musical Parodies


Who do you think of when people start reminiscing about funny musical parodies? Allan Sherman? Weird Al Yankovic? Sure, but growing up in a world of Jewish and liturgical music, the name that always came to mind first was Seymour Rockoff, a rabbi and cantor who passed away last week in Harrisburg, PA.

One of the creators of the series of parody record albums titled Rechnitzer Rejects, Rockoff had a knack for applying a funny twist in writing new lyrics to popular songs. 

In 2007 the Yeshiva University publication Chavrusa wrote:

Marty Davidson, who served in cantorial posts in Baltimore and Jerusalem, approached him with an idea of producing an album with humorous songs. Rabbi Rockoff appeared on the first five of Davidson’s eight volumes of Rechnitzer Rejects, the albums containing these songs.
Rabbi Rockoff ’s sense of humor and natural ability to entertain provided a different and creative outlet for him. When attending the annual conventions of the Cantorial Council of America, he would share with his colleagues some of his spoofs, taking traditional American tunes and changing the lyrics to make them more Jewish. 
Rabbi Rockoff wrote and recorded such tunes as ‘Boro Park’ (sung to ‘New York, New York’), ‘Cold Chopped Liver’ (sung to ‘Ol Man River’), ‘Searching Through the Night’ (sung to ‘Strangers in the Night’) and ‘Learning How to Layn’ (sung to ‘Singing in the Rain’).
We couldn't find a video of  Rabbi Rockoff singing his own words, but here's a video of Cantor Henry Rosenblum singing Cold Chopped Liver at a concert at Beth Tzedec Congregation in Toronto in 2010. The original lyrics by Rabbi Rockoff appear below.

Enjoy!

(A SPECIAL NOTE FOR NEW EMAIL SUBSCRIBERS:  THE VIDEO MAY NOT BE VIEWABLE DIRECTLY FROM THE EMAIL THAT YOU GET EACH DAY ON SOME COMPUTERS AND TABLETS.  YOU CLICK ON THE TITLE AT THE TOP OF THE EMAIL TO REACH THE JEWISH HUMOR CENTRAL WEBSITE, FROM WHICH YOU CLICK ON THE PLAY BUTTON IN THE VIDEO IMAGE TO START THE VIDEO.)


Cantor Henry Rosenblum singing "Cold Chopped Liver, "Cantor Seymour Rockoff's parody of Ol' Man River

When I return to my Shabbos table 
After I spend so much time in shul 
I am so hungry that I am not able 
To keep far away from that dish so cruel 

Every week I take one taste, I spread it on a cracker like a fleishik paste 
It tastes so good I clean the plate 
A few hours later I don’t feel so great 

Oy, Cold chopped liver, that heartburn giver, 
I shouldn’t choose it but I cant refuse it 
It keeps me groaning, just keeps me groaning, oy vey 

I don’t eat taters, I skip the chicken, 
Although each shtickel is finger licken 
Just cold chopped liver what keeps me groaning oy vey 

Some matzo meal, a little chicken fat
Keeps the chopped liver from falling flat 
Salt and pepper give it ta'am and spice 
I chop a few onions and I pay the price 

I must promise that come next Shabbos 
I won't surrender to that stomach bender 
That cold chopped liver, what keeps me groaning oy vey