Tuesday, November 09, 2010

JERRY BOCK - Attends Funeral, Gets Funeral

Joseph Stein died on October 24th. He was most famous for writing "Fiddler on the Roof," which of course is best known not for any line of the dialogue, but for the slew of hit tunes composed by the team of Bock & Harnick. Jerry Bock, the musical half of the duo, spoke at Stein's funeral. And a short time later, November 3rd, he died of heart failure. He was twenty days away from his 82nd birthday.

"What does it mean, this fiddler on the roof," Harnick's lyrics asked. And what does it mean that by such coincidence, the 98 year-old Joseph Stein and the 81 year-old Jerry Bock should die at this particular time? To quote Einstein, "How the hell should I know?" Einstein's exasperation came after being asked if there was life after death. At this point, that answer is known to Einstein, Stein and Bock. Or is it?

Bock's award-winning score for "Fiddler on the Roof" was his most famous, but he also won awards for "Fiorello," written five years earlier, and both "The Apple Tree" and "The Rothschilds," written two and six years later. If any of you can name a single song from any of those three shows, I'd be surprised. I've seen revivals of "The Apple Tree" and "Fiorello" and the only tunes I remember are from the latter…the two very similar and minor comic numbers "Politics and Poker" and "Little Tin Box."

My favorite song in "Fiddler on the Roof" was cut from the show. It's the darkly humorous "When Messiah Comes," which Herschel Bernardi recorded after taking over as Tevye from the musical's original star, boisterous Zero Mostel. It's not as bitterly sentimental as "Sunrise Sunset," as wistful as "Anatevka," or as annoying as "Matchmaker, Matchmaker." And it's not "To Life," which I think everyone agrees is "too Jewish." If Mr. Bock isn't happy about this selection, we'll find out…"When Messiah Comes."

When Messiah Comes - Music by Bock, Sung by Bernardi

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