Benny Jay: Brooklyn Kids

October 22nd, 2019

For some time now, I’ve been obsessed with three Baby Boomer Jews from Brooklyn–Carole King, Bernie Sanders and David Geffen.

They’re roughly the same age. They grew up in the same areas. And they worked their way from the bottom to the top.

King’s one of the most prolific singer/song writers of the `60s and `70s. She wrote such classics as Natural Woman and Up on the Roof.

Actually, she wrote the music to these songs. Her ex-husband, Gerry Goffin–another Baby Boomer from Brooklyn–wrote the lyrics. So you might say I’m obsessed with four Jews from Brooklyn.

King was born in 1942. Her father’s a fire fighter–her mother a teacher. She graduated from James Madison, a public high school.


Carole King & Gerry Goffin…

A teenage bride, she and Goffin wrote their earliest hits while living in her mother’s Brooklyn apartment. Humble roots, indeed.

Bernie Sanders–now battling Hillary Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination–was born in 1941.  He also graduated from Madison high school. For all I know, he and King hung out in the cafeteria.

His father was a Polish immigrant. The family never had much money–a source of anxiety and tension.  Obviously, Bernie wasn’t motivated by a drive for wealth. Since the early 1960s, he’s been on the front lines of civil rights, anti-war and other Good Fights for social justice.

I became aware of his existence in the `80s, when he was this radical mayor of Burlington, Vermont doing unthinkably radical things. Like inviting Noam Chomsky to Burlington to lecture on the evils of American foreign policy.

Something you’ll undoubtedly hear Republicans talking about, should Bernie win the nomination.


Bernie, the high school grad…

Born in 1943, Geffen’s the “baby” of the bunch. He’s from the Borough Park neighborhood of Brooklyn. He graduated from New Utrecht, another public high school. His mother ran a clothing store in Brooklyn called Chic Corsets.

Great name. Obviously, he learned a thing or two about marketing from his mom.

I remember reading about him in Rolling Stone back in the `70s as he was clawing his way to the top of the music industry.

He’s managed and produced tons of rock stars and he also made big money movie in the movies.

He’s by far the richest of the bunch. In fact, Lincoln Center will rename its performance hall for him–in exchange for a $100 million contribution.

It used to named Avery Fisher–in exchange for the $10.5 million Fisher contributed in 1973.

Apparently, $10.5 million doesn’t buy what it used to.

Childhood photo of David Geffen, Coney Island, NY. Photo courtesy of PBSDavid Geffen–on the Coney Island boardwalk…

I wonder what was it about Brooklyn in the `50s that produced three such smart, ambitious and driven people? A topic for another day.

I also wonder which of the three will have the longest-lasting legacy. Hmm…

I suppose you’ll think of Geffen whenever you walk by Lincoln Center. Unless some future tycoon talks them into renaming it.

I figure Carole King’s songs will be sung as long as there’s life on earth. A pretty long time–I hope.

As for Bernie–here’s hoping the fight for justice never goes out of fashion.

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