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Pop Music | Bonus Track

Meet 100 of Rock's Chosen People

November 26, 2000|GEOFF BOUCHER

Guy Oseary is known as the Maverick Records music executive who inked Alanis Morissette, the Deftones and Prodigy, but a decade ago he was a teenager eager to turn his love of rock into a career. He was already bold, though, so it's no surprise that one night he blithely approached former Clash member Mick Jones at a Park Plaza Hotel party.

The question the young Oseary asked the punk-rock hero, however, was a bit odd.

"I said, 'I always heard that someone in the Clash was Jewish, is that true?' " Oseary recalled. "And he said, 'Just me.' "

Oseary was thrilled with the answer. Born in Jerusalem, he loved finding common ground between his heritage and rock music. That same concept has now prompted him to author a quirky book (arriving just in time for Hanukkah) titled "Jews Who Rock" (St. Martin's Griffin Press, $12.95).

From Herb Alpert and Bob Dylan to Robbie Robertson and Warren Zevon, "Jews Who Rock" gives snapshot sketches of 100 chosen people of pop music.

Which Jew rocks the best? "Bob Dylan is the Jew of all time," Oseary says. And the most surprising? "Beck. Most people are blown away by the fact that Beck is Jewish . . . and Billy Joel. I didn't know he was Jewish."

Other potential surprises: rocker Mark Knopfler, the late Mama Cass Elliot, one-half of KISS (Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley) and Slash of Guns 'N Roses. Readers of the book will also learn that Rush's Geddy Lee was born Gary Lee Weinrib--the "Geddy" comes from the way his Yiddish-speaking grandmother pronounced "Gary."

The 108-page soft-cover may be lightweight in its rock scholarship--Oseary notes with a sigh that he's getting complaints about wrong birth dates and other biographical data--but he is already mulling future editions. Turns out Chris Robinson of Black Crowes, Gavin Rossdale of Bush and Jason Kay of Jamiroquai were among those who were, uh, passed over.

"I keep getting calls," Oseary says, "and they say, 'Why wasn't I in your book? I rock. And I'm Jewish.' "

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