David Segal glimpsed his cyber-calling during the dark days after 9-11, when every letter was potentially poisoned with anthrax. Then pop music critic for the Washington Post, Segal glommed his way onto the story-of-the-moment with a scoop from his beat: What did Scott Ian, the lead guitarist of the speed metal band Anthrax, think of its now-tainted name?
Ian let it drop that he was actually taking Cipro, the anthrax antibiotic. He explained: "I have vowed that I would not die an ironic death."
Soon after the story ran, Segal heard from his buddy Jeffrey Goldberg, at the time the New Yorker's Middle East correspondent. "I bet that guy is Jewish," Goldberg sensed. It was that world-weary combination of irony and hypochondria.
Thus was born Jewsrock, the Web site and blog dedicated to the musical members of the tribe.
We're talking scholarship far beyond your Bob Dylans, Neil Diamonds and David Lee Roths.
How about the entire band The Knack and My Sharona, the subject of the band's biggest hit? Robbie Kreiger of the Doors? Jew. Geddy Lee of Rush? Born Gary Lee Weinrib. All of Guster, half of Lenny Kravitz and most of the Jefferson Airplane. All three Beastie Boys, as well as Pink, Peaches, Beck and Mick Jones of the Clash. Don't start with Michael Bolton.
We know these to be true Jews, because they are listed in the Challah of Fame, which is kept by Philadelphia's own Izzy Grinspan from that Yeshiva on the Main Line known as Ardmore. Grinspan, 24 and living in Brooklyn, got involved in Jewsrock by answering a want ad this spring.
"It said, basically, 'tell us why you were born to work for this site,'" she says. Grinspan had the right schtuff - she'd taught Hebrew school while attending Friends Central. At Brown, where she majored in English and concentrated in 20th century fiction, she worked on the alternative weekly, championing the records of Ted Leo (not Jewish) and Sleater-Kinney (2/3rds). She got the call, and works full-time on the Challah Fame, which has swelled to 130 entries, the latest being Al Kooper of Blood Sweat and Tears fame.
Being Jewish doesn't get you special treatment from Grinspan, just a nod. The woman who went by Elizabeth until a fourth grade friend gave her the nickname Izzy, wrote a sour suck-candy of a story about Kenny Gs decision to splice a Louis Armstrong vocal onto a remake of "What a Wonderful World" -- or, as she put it, "the sound of a genius forced into a posthumous duet with a bozo."
The piece, headlined Satchmo-lestation, begins, "The reasons to be embarrassed that Kenny G is Jewish arent quite what you think they are."
Its not his wedding-band sax, his geeky waterfall of curls. "No, what makes Kenny G bad for the Jews isnt his obvious lack of coolits his lack of shame."
The site has a "Jew or Not Jew" quiz. The Four Questions, originally a Passover staple, become a series of music-oriented Q & As fielded by the likes of Jon Stewart, Al Franken, David Brooks and Maroon 5s Adam Levine. Theyve got Bar Mitzvah pictures from the young Max Weinberg, drummer of the E Street Band.
And the blog is filled with updates on the progress of such fellow Hebrewites as Steely Dan (Fagen, not the Yiddish-speaking Becker) and Paula Abdul. As well as those who don't seem a bit Jewish, like Megadeth's Dave Mustaine. Turns out he's half. Reached in Israel, he said:
"Although my Mom was Jewish, I didn't have any Jewish upbringing. I know a little bit about it. I'm a Christian. I've learned a lot about the history of the country. When I came here for my vacation, I got to see a lot of the country that, you know, goys just don't see."
It was something, you know, about that word he used.