About Marty Levitt, from his
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
His father's three brothers were also
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
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
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.