November 12, 2019

Spectator – Make Room for the Jammys

In response to the glaring absence of Jewish music from the Grammy Awards, the teen-themed JVibe has just released the results of its first “Jammys,” a set of Jewish music awards sponsored by the magazine and voted on by readers on the monthly’s Web site.

Not surprisingly, the Jammy for “outstanding male singer” went to Matisyahu, the black-clad reggae-spouting Lubavitcher whose CD, “Live at Stubbs'” has already sold more than 300,000 copies. His female counterpart was Rachel Stevens, the Brit-pop queen, formerly of S Club 7, whose latest solo effort, “Come and Get It” includes several UK hit singles. The Jammy for best Jewish group went to indie-rockers Guster (who also provided one of the leaders of the Chanukah-rocking LeeVees), while the best Jewish album nod went to “Agua Pa’la Gente,” the first full-length offering from the Hip-Hop Hoodios.

The Grammys have been given by the industry’s National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS) for 48 years and include six awards in Christian music categories; the lack of a Jewish music category has engendered numerous petitions to the Academy’s Board of Trustees over the years. Most recently, JVibe organized an online petition that attracted almost 700 signatures.

“There are other forms of spiritual music that receive Grammy recognition, and there’s some really fantastic Jewish music being produced that our readers believe deserves recognition,” JVibe executive editor Joshua Eagle wrote in an e-mail interview last week. “We figured, fine, if NARAS doesn’t want to give excellent Jewish performers their due, it wouldn’t stop us.”

The magazine boasts a readership of more than 9,000, and although he did not have exact figures on the voting, Eagle wrote that he was “pleased with the amount of traffic the vote drove to our site during the voting months.”

Other awards in the inaugural Jammys went to Lenny Kravitz, who was recognized as “the best Jewish singer you wish would refer more to being Jewish,” Rick Recht for best camp music, and a lifetime achievement award to Bob Dylan. In addition, Recht won the “Isaiah,” given to the person who makes you want to go out and change the world,” for his peace song “Shalom B’Olam.”

Regardless of who his readers chose, Eagle promises as long as NARAS continues to ignore Jewish music, this year’s Jammys will not be the last. “Great Jewish music isn’t going away anytime soon,” he wrote, “and neither will this issue.”