Celebrity Jews

Grammy, Vol. II

This week, we continue our series on Jewish Grammy nominees. We’ll finish up next week. In the best children’s album category, there’s veteran Jewish comedian/director Carl Reiner, for “Tell Me a Scary Story.” The very funny Bette Midler is nominated for best traditional pop album for “The Rosemary Clooney Songbook.”

As this column goes to press, Midler has said she may ask that her nomination be withdrawn because she is, ironically, competing with the last album recorded by the late Rosemary Clooney. The foundation that gives the Grammys says this is the first time that anything like this has happened.

Midler goes up against Barbra Streisand‘s “Movie Album”—one of Streisand’s best reviewed albums in years. (Singer k.d. lang is also nominated in this category for a duet with Tony Bennett. Lang has some remote Jewish ancestry and, in years past, said she identified as Jewish.)

Richard Marx, who had a series of big hits in the ’80s, is nominated for song of the year and best R&B song for his collaboration with Luther Vandross, “Dance With My Father.” Marx’s late father, a successful jingle writer, was Jewish. His late mother wasn’t.

Over in the best pop instrumental category you’ll find two veteran Jewish musicians: Randy Newman and Dave Koz. This is the third nomination for saxophonist Koz. He’s named for “Honey-Dipped” from the CD “Saxophonic.” Koz is a million-selling artist whose smooth jazz has found a large and appreciative audience. A practicing Jew, he has donated a lot of his time to Jewish and secular charities. He’s also nominated for a 2004 NAACP Image Award for outstanding jazz artist.

Newman, it seems, is always nominated for a Grammy or an Oscar. He’s been nominated 16 times for a musical Oscar, finally winning one in 2002. We neglected to mention last week that he was nominated this year for the title track from the hit film “Seabiscuit,” as well as for the soundtrack itself.

Newman, who was raised in a completely secular household, has stood aloof from organized religion, although he certainly brings a strong moral viewpoint to his song lyrics. His younger brother, a San Francisco doctor, broke with family tradition and provided his children with a Jewish education.

David Bryan, along with the other members of Bon Jovi, the mega-selling rock band, is nominated for best pop performance by a group with vocals (“Misunderstood” from the CD “Bounce”). Bryan, a keyboardist, is a practicing Jew who told Reform Judaism magazine a few years ago that his faith informs his work. He is, by the way, the official shofar blower for his synagogue.

Bryan may be Broadway-bound. He’s the composer of “Memphis,” a show that chronicles the birth of rock ‘n’ roll and follows a deejay who dared, in the 1950s, to play the music of both black and white musicians. The first full production of “Memphis,” by TheatreWorks, is playing through Feb. 15 at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts. The musical comes from a concept suggested by George W. George, a successful producer and the son of Rube Goldberg, the famous S.F.-born cartoonist.

In the same Grammy category as Bon Jovi you’ll find Matchbox Twenty, a huge selling band with two Jewish members: guitarist Adam Gaynor and bassist Brian Yale. They’re nominated for the song “Unwell.” Gaynor, a self-described “nice Jewish boy from Florida,” has told interviewers about his bar mitzvah and Chanukah celebrations.

Across the Atlantic

The British hold their equivalent of the Grammys—the Brit Awards — on Feb. 17. They have, however, a lot less categories. The Jewish nominees include Sean Paul (see last week’s column); The Strokes, a popular American band with one Jewish member (Nick Valensi): and two British Jewish women: Rachel Stevens and Amy Winehouse.

Stevens puts out peppy pop — she may yet break through in America as an actress. Winehouse, 19, stunned the critics with her first album, “Frank,” released last fall. Her bluesy/jazzy style, strong voice and intelligent lyrics left the press almost without enough superlatives. Winehouse, who was born and raised in Britain, is the daughter of a Brooklyn Jewish mother and a British Jewish father from the East End of London.

Nate Bloom, the columnist, is the Oakland-based editor of www.Jewhoo.com.

Nate Bloom

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