Wild Country: Jewish Country
by Max Sparber
Country music is not the most Jewish of musics, but neither is it bereft of bereft of Jews. There were a handful of well-known Jewish performers, including Ray Benson, Kinky Friedman, and David Grisman. There have been a larger number of Jewish songwriters, and an even larger number of Jews on the business end of country.
Even still, there are only a handful of country songs that address themselves to Jewish themes, and a vast majority of them are novelty numbers performers by artists who otherwise didn't work in the country milieu. A vast majority of them start from the presumption that there is something inherently comical about Jews in a country setting, especially if that Jew is a cowboy.
This seems a little unfair, as there were Jewish cowboys, and plenty of them, and there is nothing inherently hilarious about, say, Josephine Marcus, daughter of Prussian Jews, who was a teen runaway and adventurer in the Old West who wound up as Wyatt Earp's common-law wife.
Nonetheless, if these songs aren't fair to history, they do manage to be frequently hilarious, the crueler edges of its satire dulled by the fact that it is Jews who are playing with the comic possibilities of Jews in the West, or in folk songs, or in rural settings. What follows are some of the better examples.