The Jewish Dictators Who Invented Punk Rock


1977 was the year punk rock — lead by its (mostly) Jewish standard bearers, the Ramones — exploded out of New York’s Lower East Side. But a full year before the Ramones urged us to “eat Kosher salami,” another group was bragging that they “knocked ’em dead in Dallas…they didn’t know we were Jews.” That group was the Dictators, and they didn’t just embody the wise-guy attitude that would define punk — they invented it.

Lead by the Star of David-wearing “Handsome Dick Manitoba” (born Richard Blum) and guitar genius Ross “The Boss” Funicello (born Ross Friedman), the Dictators were faster, louder, and funnier than anything else happening at the time. But mainstream success eluded them. After landing a slot opening for megastars KISS, the Dictators were kicked off the tour for daring to speak Yiddish to Israeli-born KISS frontman Gene Simmons.

Nearly 40 years after the release of their first album, the Dictators continue to reunite from time to time to remind people where punk rock came from, and where it can still go.

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