Theodore Bikel (1924-2015) was an Austrian-American Jewish actor, musician, and activist whose powerful voice brought world folk music to our living rooms. On Broadway Bikel created the role of Captain von Trapp in The Sound of Music and still holds the record for performing Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof more times than any other actor. In films he appeared in such movies as The African Queen, The Enemy Below, The Defiant Ones, and The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming. Bikel was also a guest star on many popular television shows from the 1950s on.
As a singer, he recorded more than twenty albums. He could sing in 21 languages, including Yiddish, Hebrew, German, Russian, Hungarian, Romanian, French, medieval Spanish, Zulu, and English. He was a co-founder of the Newport Folk Festival and opened the first folk music coffee house in Los Angeles. the Unicorn, which led to a second coffee house, Cosmo Alley, which, in addition to folk music, also featured such differing artists as Maya Angelou and Lenny Bruce.
bikel was a staunch supporter of civil rights and humanitarian causes. He co-founded The Actors Federal Credit Union and had served as president of Actors Equity and the Associated Actors and Artistes of America. He served a six-year term on the National Council for the Arts. After one performance of The Sound of Music, producers were surprised when "he was picked up backstage by a limousine carrying Eleanor Roosevelt and he accompanied her her to a Democratic rally as her special guest." He was arrested in front of the Soviet embassy protesting the plight of Russian Jews.
The following link takes you to 32 of some of his best songs. Here, he sings in Hebrew, Spanish, Yiddish, French, Russian, Bolivian, Roumanian, Ukrainian, and (of course) English. In this playlist is one my favorite Theodore Bikel songs -- "Die Moorsoldeten," or, "The Peat Bog Soldiers."