Tonight is the beginning of Yom Kippur and many Jews around the world gather to sing Kol Nidre, the haunting and soulful Hebrew and Aramaic declaration that precedes the day of atonement. In 1958, the great Johnny Mathis recorded a beautiful rendition of Kol Nidre for his album Good Night, Dear Lord which contained Black spirituals and other Hebrew and Yiddish songs. From a 2011 article in SFGATE:
Growing up in San Francisco, the silken-voice singer was captivated by the cantorial music he heard in the synagogues of his Jewish friends.
"It was the extreme emotion the cantors sang with," says Mathis[…]
His "Kol Nidre" was all but forgotten until the self-described "Dumpster-diving record collectors" of New York's Idelsohn Society for Musical Preservation came across a rare 7-inch recording of it. Blown away by the power of the performance, and intrigued by the idea of African American artists embracing Jewish music, they began compiling recordings by Cab Calloway, Aretha Franklin, Lena Horne, Nina Simone, the Temptations and other black musicians who were drawn to Jewish melodies and culture. That connection [was] celebrated in the exhibition "Black Sabbath: The Secret Musical History of Black-Jewish Relations" at San Francisco's Contemporary Jewish Museum.
"People have often said that black people and Jewish people sounded an awful lot alike musically, and I think it's true," says Mathis[…] "The music has those guttural, mournful sounds. All the jazz guys I grew up with picked up on that."
Video interview with Mathis from the Contemporary Jewish Museum:
(Thanks, David Katznelson!)