BROOKLYN JEWISH CELEBRITIES - Marty Levitt

Marty

Levitt

American Klezmer musician, and radio host.
Marty Levitt

Marty Levitt and his Clarinet. About Marty Levitt, from his son Dave: Marty Levitt was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1930. His father was a well-respected musician in the Yiddish Theatre and Jewish Music scene. 

Marty Levitt and his Clarinet

This is the first of a series of re-broadcasts of Marty’s “Freilach Time” radio program.

“Freilach Time”
88.9 FM WDNA
Miami, Florida
original broadcast date:
July 9, 1980
time– 57m 19s

Song Selection for this Radio Broadcast:

1) Der Nayer Sher – Barry Sisters

2) Russian Sher – Dave Tarras

3) Grine Bleter – Moishe Oysher

4)  Israeli Medley – Harriet Kane

5) Hallelujah – Steve Lawrence & Eydie Gorme

6) Sirba Batuta – Abe Ellstein Orchestra

7) Chassidic Medley – Marty Levitt Orchestra

8) Bar Mitzvah Hora – Harriet Kane

9) Ki Lashem – Marty Levitt Orchestra

10) Ich Hob Dir Tsu Fir Lieb – Barry Sisters

11) Habibi – Marty Levitt Orchestra

12) Alley Cat (In Yiddish) – Harriet Kane

13) Yiddish Cha Cha – Harriet Kane

14) Roumania – Harriet Kane

This is the second of a series of re-broadcasts of Marty’s “Freilach Time” radio program.

“Freilach Time”
88.9 FM WDNA
Miami, Florida
original broadcast date:
July 16, 1980
time– 58m 10s

This is the third of a series of re-broadcasts of Marty’s “Freilach Time” radio program.

“Freilach Time”
88.9 FM WDNA
Miami, Florida
original broadcast date:
July 23, 1980
time– 57m 34s

About Marty Levitt and his show, from his son Dave:

In this show Marty starts to give more background on the music, most of which was from the Yiddish Theatre. He also happily announces the names of some new listeners and plays their requests.

When he announces the “Roumanian Serba,” the song “Litvak and Galitz” gets played instead. He makes up for it by having the “Serba” played right afterwards.

If there are any questions or thoughts, please email me at levittdf@gmail.com.

Dave Levitt

 

Songs on this Radio Broadcast:

1)      Machar

2)      Chassidic Medley – Marty Levitt

3)      Shir  Hashirim – Harriet Kane

4)      Miami – Miami Choir Boys

5)      Litvak and Galitz – Harriet Kane

6)      Roumanian Serba – Marty Levitt

7)      Chava – Miami Choir Boys

8)      Hosti Gisti Bist – Leo Fuchs

9)      Bashana Habaha – Yaffa Yarkoni

10)   Russian Sher – Marty Levitt

11)   Finjan-?

12)   Skripa Klezmer – Aaron Lebedeff

13)   Hallelujah-?

14)   Chassidic Medley – Marty Levitt

15)   Toda Raba – Ricki Gal

About Marty Levitt, from his son Dave:

Marty Levitt was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1930. His father was a well-respected musician in the Yiddish Theatre and Jewish Music scene. His mother had come to the United States from Poland a few years before.

His father’s three brothers were also musicians.

At age five Marty’s mother took him to Poland to visit her parents. What was supposed to be a three-week trip turned into a four-year stay. He returned to New York with his mother on May 2, 1939, just months before the Nazis invaded.

Once back in New York his mother moved him around a lot including a stint in Providence, Rhode Island. Marty started clarinet lessons and kept that up everywhere he had lived. He moved in with his dad as a teenager and started working as a professional musician.  Marty started booking his own gigs at age seventeen. This included weddings, bar mitzvahs, and many dinners for Jewish organizations or “landshaftn.” He worked with such notables as Abe Schwartz, Nathan Ritholz, and many others. He also began working the Catskills every summer starting in 1947. 

Marty remained a busy bandleader in Brooklyn, as well as in Jewish nightclubs on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. In 1956 a young singer named Harriet Kane auditioned for Marty’s band. They started working together and became more than friends. They married the next year and started a family a few years after.

Together they made a record for the Tikva label in 1959 called “Party Memories.” Marty followed with an instrumental album called “Wedding Dances” in 1962, also for Tikva. During the late 1950s Marty saw the demand for Jewish music diminish. He incorporated more continental music into his repertoire. such as Polish tangos, Hungarian dances, Israeli folksongs, etc. Harriet learned to sing all this material in each specified language. This enabled them to become very popular with the Jews who had made it through the war.  They were so busy that they stopped going to work each summer in the Catskills after the 1964 season. Marty still managed to sneak in a hora or a bulgar on every engagement.

There were a few more recordings made in the 1960s, e.g. “Bar Mitzvah Favorites” in 1965, and “Marty Levitt goes Continental ” in 1968. The latter being a prime example of the “survivor” repertoire Marty had gained command of.

The Levitts continued to be busy into the 1970s and then recorded a couple of more albums. While working with Fran records Marty did “50 Chassidic Hits” in 1973 with a ten-piece band. This was followed by “A Jewish Wedding,” which was an album narrated by radio star Art Raymond and arranged by Nat Brooks.

The family moved to Florida in 1977. This was where Marty “reunited” with many of his clientele who had moved south. One of the things Marty did while in Florida was start a radio show. “Freilach Time” was an hour-long show which aired on Sunday mornings in Miami on radio station WDNA. Levitt used his extensive Jewish record collection to play on the air. Some featured acts were: The Feder Sisters, Jan Peerce, Dave Tarras and others. The show was produced solely on listener contributions and ran for two periods of time in 1980-81 as well as in 1982. This was also the beginning of the klezmer revival. Marty started arranging an album of klezmer music that he would record after moving back to Brooklyn in 1983.

There were also some vocals by Harriet as well. These recordings were titled “King of the Klezmer,” Volumes 1 and 2. In 1985 Harriet Kane passed away after a short battle with cancer. Marty slowed down his work a lot, as he knew she was irreplaceable. He did go on to record “Klezmer Wedding ” in 1991, which featured his son Dave on trombone. Marty became a popular interview for ethnomusicologists studying klezmer  music. He was quoted in many publications and provided old pictures to be used in some works as well. In later years he started to write many of these klezmer melodies to be preserved for future generations.

Marty passed away in March 2008 at the age of seventy-seven.

Courtesy of Steven Lasky, museumoffamilyhistory.com