The death of award-winning singer and Yiddishist Adrienne Cooper has sparked an outpouring of tribute for the woman sometimes called the mother of the Yiddish and klezmer revival.
Cooper, an influential performer, teacher and composer, died of cancer in New York on Dec. 26 at the age of 65.
For decades one of the leading figures in Yiddish music, Cooper was also a mentor to generations of younger musicians. A powerful stage presence, she was “one of the great interpreters of Yiddish song of her generation, both on her own and in collaboration with leading lights of Yiddish music and theater,” Jeffrey Shandler, a professor of Jewish studies at Rutgers University, wrote in the Forward. “She played a pivotal role in guiding us on our way to engaging Yiddish culture as part of our futures, whether as scholars, writers, performers, filmmakers, or activists.”
Cooper worked at the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research in the 1970s and 1980s, and in 1985, with Henry Sapoznik, co-founded Klezkamp, an annual, multi-generational Yiddish folk arts program that takes place at the end of December.
“She was a valued performer, not only for her impressive vocal qualities, but her masterful interpretive style and tremendous stage presence,” the Jewish Women’s Archive wrote. “She presented Yiddish song in such an expressive way that any audience could understand and appreciate it.”
Cooper was deeply involved in progressive and feminist causes. She is survived by her daughter, Sarah Gordon, also a singer, and her partner, pianist Marilyn Lerner.