Music & Simchas: The Evolution – What Happened To Jewish Music?

(As featured in the 5 Towns Jewish Times,  9/21/18)

by Gershon Veroba

I grew up in an atmosphere of musical extremes. Both my parents were career wedding performers, my mother specializing in opera & Yiddish, while my father was a chazzan, working with Yossele Rosenblatt until he was 16. Dad’s experience and knowledge in Jewish music very difficult to question.

Ironically, the talent he had that I tried to emulate and became a unique characteristic of my music actually contributed to our artistic differences.  His ability to improvise in his davening, keeping it constantly fresh from week to week while perfectly maintaining the nusach, inspired me to develop a broad flexibility in musical taste that Dad would not approve of.  Years later, similar conflicts in style would irreversibly change both Jewish music and shul davening in the decades to follow.   

Having little choice in being born into the era of TV, Broadway, pop and rock, I came to believe that the immense influence these musical extremes had on me was a rare occurrence in religious Jewish life.

A few decades before, Chazzanus, a genre based on minyanim and mass participation, would eventually watch its audiences turn to newer genres fed by individual experience, styles from the diaspora and eventually the new land of Israel.

On the lower end of the ticket-price spectrum, the poor Jewish musicians developed Klezmer street music from the chulent of Jewish influences and moods, creating a sound also uniquely similar to it’s geographic origins but appropriate to us.  Add to that the role of chazzanus and nusach as a weekly reminder of the sound of tefila. In the end, it all fit into our self-identification.   

Is Jewish Music Jewish Music?
The fact that many of the Chassidic zemiros from previous centuries were often based on secular music of the time has always been debated, but the result actually created great Jewish music.  The “blood money” of goyishe music from those regions was frequently “laundered” in liturgy, emotion, history and hope by the talented ears of so many chassidic teams like those in Modzitz, Lubavitch, Munkatch, Ger, Vishnitz, etc. 

As years went passed and the past got foggier, it became more difficult to trace what kind of music is considered “inherently Jewish” and yet people still felt it was necessary to question it. The religiously-protective became suspicious as styles began to sound familiar, but still there was dignity in that music and it came to blend well with the Jewish experience. It blesses simchas and the shabbos table, with crowds singing together and making unquestionable mental connections with their eyes closed, unaware that 19th Century composers like Julius Fučík, probably influenced that nigun. 

When the phonograph came into vogue, supplying the world with new melodies, it was only a matter of time before the influence of secular structures affected Jews, zemiros and prayer. Classical music was now even more available to the rabbonim, depending on whether or not they owned a Victrola. With it, they could maintain the 19th century in the 20th. Chazzanus started to become immortalized on 78rpm records and, in the late 40’s Israel would eventually follow. Next decade, Carlebach, next, Rabbi’s Sons, etc. Now we’re cooking.

By the time I was born, songs with an emphasis on melody, simplicity and often a certain level of adherence to a style had evolved from from so many places, yet based on our common faith. We defined the music as “Jewish,” but the reasons were gray varied, often undefined and often inconsistent from person to person, from chassidic to non-affiliated. This gray area would last for generations and, while it still exists, is on shaky ground. Today’s world doesn’t like gray areas.

We’re The Ones That Changed It
Even the ingeniously simplistic melodies of Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, z”l, that suddenly refilled our repertoire in over 40 years ago were based on these limitations. People objected more to Shlomo’s and his free thinking than his songs, which were too simple to truly criticize. For Shlomo, that was fine, since he didn’t like complexity.

Why do these things change? New musical influences in the street? Lack of interest in learning musical instruments or reading notes at home? Avoiding word repetition? One definite problem had always been the centuries-old problem of Judaica shops, the only source for physical Jewish recordings and located only in cities of major population. Today, even online, shops that even bother to carry CDs know that high cost of manufacturing for so few buyers promises little profit, so only top sellers are favored on shelves and the public gets to see only a fraction of the music actually created.

Another interesting problem inherent to religious Jewish life can be that we hear harmony at the shabbos table, which is the only other accompanying music, since there’s no guitar or band. Hear it enough and you can forget which was the harmony and which was the melody. Over a few years in school, weddings, camp and other homes, the composer hears hundreds of people singing his song…but wrong.  What can he do? I’ve experienced it myself and heard other composers say, “oh, well…At least people are singing my song, even though that’s not how I wanted them to sing it. I’ll just put that kind of thing in my next song.”

Reb Shlomo did not think this way because he felt Hashem gave him these melodies to care for and share properly, just like children, which is literally what they were to him. “They were given to me by the ribonoi shel oilam,” he said to me. “Please tell them not to sing it like this, Gershon, they’re mamish killing my babies.” Changing even a note or two, interrupted the original flow of that melody, so he watched the destined purpose get interrupted, breaking the trance like the snap of a hypnotist’s finger.  The simple and often circular nature of his songs were part of the magic, often getting stronger the more you repeat it, chanting you into that holy zone so powerful, the experience has changed people’s lives. 

We can’t even blame the people who sing those songs incorrectly today, it’s how they learned it. They’re shocked when I show them the original, but many do recognize what’s been missing and they feel it’s affect when they try it, without any need for understanding music.

The Evolution Today
Jewish music has has always varied in entertainment quality, but more recently we have seen some great, unprecedented changes. To attract the younger audiences as strongly as before, the music needed to freshen up.   New songs are now reflecting more open minds, more developed talent and great technologies to make them more accessible. The current Jewish hits have broader music influences, but the composers still take lessons learned from old Jewish songs we still use today.

As the 1970’s rolled along, rock and disco styles permeated Jewish music into the 90’s. Now, Jewish music has finally won its freedom to lyricize lyric and accept broader musical influences, especially since CD sales have fallen and adults are less keen than their children to attempt the “complicated” process of downloading.

Original lyrics in Yiddish have always been accepted as a kosher alternative, but now the holy language of Hebrew has been given more rabbinical room. This allows the music to be composed freely as the words can be changed, something you can’t really do as easily with Tanach.

People have actually changed the old songs, anyway, due to changing tastes. They can’t help it… Moshe Shur’s cheerful “Sameach T’samach”, our standard “Od Yishoma,” Shlomo’s “Nigun Neshama,” “Shifchi” and “Mileyim Ziv,” the Gerer “Lecha Dodi,” Ohr Chodosh’s “Bilvovi”… We could be here all day.  None of these songs are being sung the same, because you are not the same.

What Inspires Us To Join In
Whether we wish to believe it or not, our uses for music have changed as much as our sources. Sure, shabbos and yom tov still forces us to rely on songs with a definitive, attractive melody, but simple enough so we can all sing along. There is no sheet music at the shabbos table to keep it consistently correct and not everyone is a musician, so who’s going to point out mistakes? Sure there’s always “that one guy,” but we tell him to chill out.

Group singing is our band. Even when the band plays at the wedding, the guys singing are off on their own anyway. And why? It’s not just a song, it’s what we’re singing about. In the case of Jewish music, it usually goes hand-in-hand with the words that have great, established ancient value that addresses our core, the reason we’re singing at the moment to begin with…Torah, Tfilah and life itself.

Over the years, there were periods I was quite worried. Still am in some ways, but I believe the new artists and composers have learned from many aspects of the older music, past audiences, their responses and their habits in listening and singing.

As a musician and performer, it’s a constant, exciting challenge to keep up with the material and standards of the dozens of bands and artists the are out there. These great bands have helped so many of us grow musically, honed our instrumental skill, responsibly expanded our listening with less fear and have provided invaluable lessons in compassion, patience, courtesy, reality and professionalism. 

Keeping It Israel
An interesting punchline to this interesting timeline is that, no matter how gray the area has been for what makes songs or music Jewish, if musicians have the right experience and sense of balance from the past, then fusing the old and the new works while still keeping it Jewish. If your product sounded Jewish before, then you can use that same vibe inside you to blend it with the new songs.

I like to think of it as an accent from the old country. If you’re not a speech therapist or a linguistic anthropologist, you can’t easily explain your accent or expressive nuances, but you can still tell it’s coming from you and your home. New Yorkers alone can certainly attest to that, but it applies all over, different countries, different generations…It comes across when they speak to you. Just like you can tell when you hear your favorite singer, there’s that “something” that makes that same song just right for you.

I spent many years recording and singing revised copies of songs from secular and Jewish worlds and I’ve been given songs I regret singing because they didn’t serve a purpose stronger than “hey, these words can fit.”  Just because the words were from tehillim, or said something shabbos, torah or mashiach, doesn’t magically make it useful.

I found one thing to be true: If the music and the words have a good reason to be matched, the song will work because it gave you something you didn’t have before. If, on the other hand, you force incompatible elements together, providing nothing appropriate or constructive as Jewish-related entertainment, then I don’t see the point. If you did it because the original song was cool and it goes nowhere in Yiddish, you might as well just buy the original, since it has little or no Jewish value.  The same goes for the wrong Jewish song for the wrong part of davening. If the music from “that song” doesn’t work with Kel Adon, then you’re singing a different song during Kel Adon, which brings up halachic issues as well, but I digress…

Jewish music contains a purpose, which to promote or reflect something in Jewish life, whether it’s prayer, comedy, dancing, history, profound issues in our lives or communities, something definitively Jewish. It’s for this reason that I believe people are waking up to the fact that it’s shouldn’t simply be the exact music, notes, instruments or even underlying musical influences that define this song as Jewish or not. It’s the treatment, phrasing, playing, arrangement and timing when it’s presented to you. Very simply, what comes out is more definitive than what goes in. If the message of the lyric — it could be Hebrew, English, Yiddish holy or not— is appropriate to the purpose of Jewish life, meaning, inspiration and spirit, then you’re doing fine.

Next time: “Hiring A Band: Keep The Right Priorities”


Gershon Veroba has lived in the 5 Towns/Far Rockaway area for over 30 years. A composer, producer, musician and singer since childhood,  Gershon has been featured by most most major wedding bands since 1980. As a solo artist, he’s performed on stage and in the studio with the most popular Jewish performers. He has produced & appeared on over a hundred albums, including over a dozen of his own, in concerts and festivals in around the world, including the annual Rockami shows in Jerusalem until 2012. His company, Town 6 Entertainment Corp., provides music and video production services worldwide, now featuring G-Major Events, an orchestra and event planning company for weddings and other personal occasions.

He was the owner & editor-in-chief of the original Jewish Community Magazine until 1995 and is now a contributing writer for 5TJT.   Visit gmajorevents.com for information, videos & social media. For more on Gershon, visit www.veroba.net.

Music & Simchas: Becoming A Team Player By Hiring One

(As featured in the 5 Towns Jewish Times,  8/31/18)
by Gershon Veroba
Like anyone else working the in the same field for a long time, I’ve learned a lot and I am still learning more than I could ever share in a space like this, but it’s worth a try, so thank you for “tuning in.”
Experience can be good for many things, like anecdotes and on-the-job training, but it also provides perspective. Approaching a task while recalling the results from the many times you tried it gives you the chance to maximize your success by making better decisions. If you have limited experience in building a house, running a political campaign or (gasp) making a wedding, wouldn’t you be best advised to consult with professionals to get it right?
When I consult and perform for a wedding client or when I direct a performer in the studio, the first thing I turn to is my past experience to achieve the most success. After all, the person or group I’m working with came to me because of that experience so not using it just doesn’t make sense. They know I’ve seen what works and what fails. This is the reason we all hire experts, to benefit from something they specialize in… The event a client considers “once in a lifetime” is something the professional has done many times.
A person does not have to be a musician, a caterer, a planner or photographer to understand the joy of benefiting from those services performed well. When the client becomes more familiar with the services they’re receiving, they can define more precisely what they want to the experts they hired. With this stress reduced, the client is comfortable knowing they will get the most value for their money and that “it’s all taken care of.”
Whether or not you understand music on any technical level, there are still a few key insights that anyone can understand when it comes to music and sound, but many don’t know. After explaining, they are clearly more relaxed and agreeable because they are now more confident to ask questions and are more familiar with the service they’re paying for.
I actually enjoy educating the people I work with. The “teacher” in many of us gets a great sense of satisfaction sharing your experience with people and seeing them succeed when they use it. Appreciation can be the ultimate reward. Some don’t need that, but I’m in showbiz, so that makes me an applause kind of guy. Entertainers love appreciation, so I try to invest a little more to get it. I personally thrown in a few extra insights, if I have them, because I find it often becomes useful later in the project.
This has come in handy while working with vocal students, for example. I often cite the scenario of “landing a plane” while singing in order to land on a note gently and on key. Once I plant that thought, I can easily refer back to it by saying “ok…now land the plane…” to remind them at moment’s notice, without the need to to distract from the moment by introducing a new concept. Let’s call it “advance training.”
To me, an event client is no different. I was always a big fan of Sy Syms, a”h, who was famous for the slogan, “an educated consumer is our best customer.” Offering some super-basic advance training on what makes a great band or helping them ask the right questions can only make my job easier and the client happier. Many clients, for instance, benefit from knowing why I’m recommending to include the sax to their band before adding a violin or how a sound company can make the music better, not louder. If I have the proper experience, I can explain these things briefly and clearly.
Whether talking to friends on the sidewalk or responding to strangers from a podium, it’s always refreshing when people express an interest in my views of the business I’m in. I like making sense of the entertainment they get from the car radio, the bandstand or in videos. Almost everyone has something to ask or contribute when discussing entertainment. For me, it not only makes great conversation, but it gives me a chance to finally share the lessons I’ve learned in a career to which I’ve dedicated my life.
I can honestly say with whatever authority I’ve earned over time that the industries of Jewish entertainment and hospitality have all advanced more in the last 10 years than I ever witnessed in at least the previous 30. Musicians, singers, planners, caterers, photo and video pros have opened their eyes more than ever, embraced new styles and technologies, pushed the boundaries and have been enjoying unprecedented acceptance from the new generations in the Jewish communities here and around the world. Knowing how to benefit from these advancements, however, often requires professional guidance, probably more today than ever before.
“Expertise” is specifically the result of “experience” and it’s ultimately what makes an “expert.” All you torah scholars will recognize the common shoresh (root) in those three words. It’s a source of pride to have gone through the experiences I’ve had in my career and to connect with great professionals I can rely on for their own accumulated lines of specialty. I can’t think of any life besides entertainment that provides more excitement and drama, except working undercover for the CIA or perhaps interstate trucking. For good and bad, I’ve worked with the best and worst, learned from success and mistakes and played a part in people’s happiness.
I’ve learned a lot about getting attention and how to please an audience. Just give them a carefully-crafted combination of what they want and what you’re good at. Sure, I know… entertainers are show-offs. I’m one of them. But even caterers, planners and all those other vendors at the event are entertainers, too so why not take advantage of their expertise as well and let them show off for you? They been practicing a long time for it.
Find that professional you are convinced will work hard to please you and they can save you money, trouble and time. They call it a simcha for a reason, so stay happy!
Please feel free to email me at gershon@gmajorevents.com to comment or suggest topics. You can also post comments on facebook.com/gmajorevents, where this article is also posted. Thank you for listening!

Next time: “The Evolution: What Happened To Jewish Music?”
Gershon Veroba has lived in the 5 Towns/Far Rockaway area for over 30 years. A composer, producer, musician and singer since childhood, Gershon has been featured by most most major wedding bands since 1980. As a solo artist, he’s performed on stage and in the studio with the most popular Jewish performers. He has produced & appeared on over a hundred albums, including over a dozen of his own, in concerts and festivals in around the world, including the annual Rockami shows in Jerusalem until 2012. His company, Town 6 Entertainment Corp., provides music and video production services worldwide, now featuring G-Major Events, an orchestra and event planning company for weddings and other personal occasions.
He was the owner & editor-in-chief of the first Jewish Community Magazine until 1995 and is now a contributing writer for 5TJT. Visit gmajorevents.com for information, videos & social media. For more on Gershon, visit www.veroba.net.

The State of the Music – Reflecting on last few months & the last few years…

So, now that times have changed (and they really have), I see that people have become more receptive to musical styles and influences I was criticized for years ago. What happened?

The real question may be “what didn’t happen.” Jewish music has frequently been caught standing still and, in many ways it still is. Either they can’t “up their game” or, in some case, may not be interested in change. I’ve watched many take the easy way out, pay arrangers, composers and producers to create the illusion of more talent than there is and hope for a hit. I’ve watched many great songs and productions crash and burn and I’ve watched great talent go to waste with second rate productions.

For good or bad, many productions have gone from elaborate large orchestras to hip programming and digital synthesis, sometimes a mix of both.  My last album included both and, while I’m proud I applied the right choices for each individual song, whether 12-piece string section, 3 French Horns (“2-hoo turtle doves…”) and flutes with acoustic bass, piano, guitar and drums, or 100% computerized with voice sampling and R&B Marvin Gaye-inspired rhythms, the album felt like a journey with different textures and colors.

I’ll be forever glad I did it. I question whether the majority of the buying audience truly cares, but they may simply not have the ability. I do, though.

Lyrics! Where do I begin? Hebrew lyrics in a song for a religious audience? Unheard of! Today, original Hebrew lyrics have become as accepted as Yiddish. Hebrew is considered the holy language, so it was avoided in common lyric. Yiddish? Not so holy, so go ahead.

Original lyrics make it possible to form melody and words more freely in order to fit, pronounce comfortably, express more colorfully and make a higher quality song that’s more attractive, intuitive and enjoyable. Unheard of years ago.

Watch GV’s video of Megama’s “Up To Jerusalem” (separate window)

Moshe Yess and Shalom Levine formed Megama, touring as bearded curiosities with amazing talent from a past life. Moshe’s folk, rock & country talent from his non-religious days as a studio guitarist allowed him to combine his ingenious Chet Atkins level playing with his bluegrass lyric cleverness. Shalom, a student of viola legend Pablo Casals, kept the music arrangement simple but on point, along with their comic ability… The act had such impact that Rav Moshe Feinstein, zt”l, encouraged Megama to perform concerts even during the omer & 3 weeks periods.

He felt they were inspiring others around the world to journey as far as they had to Orthodoxy. They were also pretty inexpensive, certainly cheaper than Diaspora Yeshiva Band. They were just 2 guys, 2 instruments, they came with their own PA system and they were rehearsed to perfection.

I became friends with Shalom & Moshe and they stayed at my place when in town. We identified with each other’s music, but I was considered simply a rebel, going in the wrong direction, since I was already born orthodox. I didn’t have the beard (not that large, anyway), I wasn’t considered a baal tshuvah, so what business did I have peddling with this kind of stuff? I became the “goy of Jewish Music.” It was cool for the goyish guy to sing frum songs, but not for the frum kid to sing goyish songs. What the audience was grabbing and what I was doing was fun, skilled and natural, but I was shunned for it.
What was “goyish?” An interesting discussion we had a while ago. Check it out.

GV’s Music Page  (separate window)

More times than I could count, I was told that my reputation of composing and performing English words, secular melodies and allowing mainstream influences to drive my music kept me from being booked on the frum stage and selling in the sforim stores.

Mean and nasty? Sure. But unfortunately, they spoke the truth. The biggest composers, producers and performers quoted the Jewish music rule book: “You put more than one English song on an album, it won’t sell.”

English has increased now on religious albums, even in multiple tracks. I still see a problem in the use of decent poetic imagery and language flow, an inherent struggle for religious writers whose upbringing avoided mainstream song writing…Perhaps we’ll talk about that another day.

I can now take my own experience and judge from there. I’m walking the walk.

Yitzy Berry in Sach Hakol Studios, Jerusalem, conducting the orchestra on “Bayom Hahu”

I look back on how Yitzy Berry & Eli Klein did such an amazing job on the album version of Simcha Kranczer’s “Bayom Hahu,” working the orchestra exactly as I wanted it immortalized on the album. Interestingly, when I made the á capella version of that song to please the people who wanted that kind of production during sefiras ha’omer and the 3 weeks approaching Tish’a B’Av, it was received better than I had ever imagined. It was fun to make and I did it all on my own in a couple of days (thanks also to Ari Goldwag’s appearance by phone video). Basing the arrangement on the original, I just sang track-on-track until it worked.

The question is, what does it say, that the cheap version did so well? I think the answer isn’t technical, it’s statistical. Great song at the right time in the right form, not artistically as much as halachically…at least according to those who consider á capella to be an acceptable musical form for those “no instrumental music” periods.  Me? I just love making chords and building vocals.

I am constantly asked (no, really…I am…) if I’m happy with what I’ve done.

The past 15 years brought about a great shift in my quality and I had been patiently waiting for the audience to come out of their shells. Today, what I was criticized for years before has now become the norm and I’ve become “old school.” I’ll take that, I guess. It’s better than pretending I’m something I’m not. I’ve tried that and it doesn’t work.

That being said, as far as today’s audiences…Could I have put less effort and money into the “Ani Yisrael” album and few, if any would have seen or heard the difference?

Maybe, but it would not have been the same album, it’s a difference I would have seen and I wouldn’t feel the same about it as I do.

Now THIS is “American-Jewish Music.”

 

A bit hokey and badly-pronounced, but a rare and joyous use of Jewish music in a mixed forum…their hearts are in the right place…I hope.

Funny part is, I can’t stand “Hava Nagila.”

(Hey… Aren’t “Pancho & Juan” the motorcycle cops from “CHiPs?”)

New York – Gershon Veroba Converts Secular Music, Is It Kosher? — VosIzNeias

New York – Gershon Veroba Converts Secular Music, Is It Kosher? — VosIzNeias

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What’s Jewish Music’s problem? What’s ours?

My, my, my… we are in trouble, aren’t we?
From the point of view of gossip alone, the already shaky Jewish music “industry,” already under constant fire, is now being made an ever-growing target by the mostly ignorant, but loud critics of their own definition of “wrong.”

Uuggghhhh… Where to start?
I’m not going to attempt to address it in one sitting, because I’ve gotten all sorts of hate mail and support mail for my work over the years, saying this is not such a simple fight. It should, however, begin with certain necessary definitions and observations that I’d like to touch on first. The rest is up to you:

JEWISH vs. “GOYISH”
In short, if anyone is is hoping to link to specifically pure-bred Jewish sources of of Jewish music available in this last century, they will come up very short and disappointed, unless they accept some hard truths.

Musical composition of any major consequence, in general, has historically depended upon other musical influences to shape it into a unique mixture. Many of those mixtures, intentionally or not, can often closely resemble one of its actual sources, a style created for another purpose, or even something it had no knowledge of.

Saying that certain uses of an organ in a song, for example, with chord structure and actual choice of sound settings on the organ itself are reminiscent of non-Jewish religious music, is a fair statement. Saying that using an organ at all is therefore wrong, is not fair, anymore than using an electric guitar is wrong due to it’s connections to paganism’s role in metal or modern Christian music.

If the requirement for Jewish Music (an ambiguous term, to say the least) is to resemble nothing else but Jewish sources, then roughly 60-75% of music created for Jewish entertainment, nationalism and prayer in the last 60 years must be eliminated.

If you are among those who object to “non-Jewish” music, you must know how to answer the questions of “what is…” and “what can be…” before you criticize music intended to contribute to the global Jewish community.

Finally, the term “goyish” has, unfortunately become an overly-used term that remains undefined, while its derogatory nature satisfies their anger at the present shortcomings of the Jewish music industry, which has been destroyed by their ignorance and sanctimony.

Those who have learned to hate non-Jews feel that “goyish” is the worst thing something or someone Jewish can be. In fact, musical influences created or used mostly by non-Jews or non-religious Jews for music not related to prayer have become the #1 source of influence in Jewish music this past century.

The issue has come to surround the fascinatingly un-defined term “goyish,” rather than the more understood and respected term of “improper.” “Goyish” is a paranoid term, in my opinion, suggesting that some underlying purpose of the “improper” influence is for the underhanded infiltration of a religion that conflicts with ours.

I can say, with 35 years of intimate involvement with just about every dimension of the Jewish music field, that much of todays so-called yeshivish and chassidish music (not all, of course), including many of those being used on the bima (prayer pulpit) contains influences in it’s musical arrangements, composition, performance and even words that I feel are “improper,” but often for reasons that have little to do with the influence of conflicting religions.

You should continue to comment here, there and everywhere. This is not going away and it’s going to get worse.

The furor is now reaching new heights and pretty soon, if you don’t already think that Jewish music’s pickings are slim now, just watch what happens when you let it happen.

Leaving the subjective art of music to be judged by the black and white will not work and it will prevent the many different musical talents out there from contributing their art to Jewish life. Do you think Judaism needs music? I’ll leave that question open.

What IS Jewish Music?

I’m going to leave much of this answer to those responding.
My point here is to show the differing opinions out there and, certainly, share my own.

Whoa, baby, do I have my own…

I’m an American, born-and-bred, growing up on Beatles, cantorial, Walt Disney, zemiros, Dean Martin, Shlomo Carlebach, Peter, Paul and Mary, CSNY, EW&F, ELO, Marvin Gaye, Gerrer and Modzitzer, Sherwood Goffin, Ruach and Joni Mitchell… an often-depressing combination of cultures for a growing musician…and that’s just spanning one decade of almost five.

I made a career combining (!) many of these elements. Finding a balance is still an artistic and personal struggle, but it also involves dealing with the constantly-changing morays of Jewish audiences.

My next question should be “what is American Jewish music?” Answering that question (and arguing it, I expect) may very well involve responses to the first one.