Closer to the truth would be a man who takes his faith seriously. It's a telling irony that a Chassidic Jew addresses issues of faith boldly, in a way that puts much of what is released in the Contemporary Christian Music scene to shame.
He wraps his earthy vocal around clever poetry that reports back from the war weary frontline of all the world's ills and then tops and tails it with heavenly insight. Himmelman was unaware - and pleasantly surprised - to learn he has a following in the Christian community, acknowledging that "there are certainly a lot of shared values. I'm an observant Jew who keeps the Sabbath, and keeps kosher. My life is very structured in that way. Ideally I put God before everything that I do.
I say ideally because - well, that is an ideal. It's something that I strive for - continuity with the Jewish people, and Israel. There's a very strict moral code which I try to abide by.
In some ways, ironically, I think it's that structure - that obedience to the structure that allows me to be as free as I am on stage. He cites as an example, a recent trip to Israel: "There's these young secular Israeli guys, with tattoos and nipple rings and all that stuff, and I come on there, and they're pretty much in disbelief asking 'How can this guy be so structured in one part of his life, and so utterly untethered onstage?
Having experienced part of that myself, it's not a very revolutionary mode of operation. As a man of faith, he's not impressed with 'watered down' religions, especially the current popularity of Kabbalah, as endorsed by celebrities like Madonna, Ashton Kutcher and Britney Spears. It's an absolute joke. Trying to have utter mastery of an instrument without even learning how to open the case - it's impossible, it's a sham, and it's ridiculous.
I'm sure everybody's having a lot of fun, but it has nothing to do with Kabbalah. If a kid can turn on a transistor radio, and make music, in some sense he is making music, but you know what I'm saying. Just as Christians are often portrayed in a negative light by the media - as reactionary, ignorant and quick to judge, Himmelman agrees there's a corresponding problem with how the Jewish faith is represented.
And just like everyone else, there's a certain agenda to promote that - and anybody that has a God-fearing perspective is somehow anachronistic or certainly the whole thing's outmoded and certainly could never teach anybody about freedom of expression because they're painted as narrow-minded. It all works - everybody has an agenda.
Somebody at a rock concert will go 'George Bush sucks' and everyone automatically screams and loves it - they'll make some kind of comment about any number of left-wing causes, and immediately the whole place is alight with delight and praise. And to me it's just all sorts of dogma on all sides. At least if I have dogma I'll call it exactly what it is. I'm not going to call it some sort of posturing for freedom. Regardless of the size of his ego, there's a sense of humility in Himmelman's songs that is all too rare in popular culture; "I think I have a certain cognitive of being in possession of a rare gift Ideally, and I keep using that word ideally just so you won't thing I'm trying to promote myself as someone who's arrived at some place - I mean, I'm just a struggling clown - but ideally there is a sense of duty that is bound up with that idea of talent, that gift.
Certainly if there is a gift there's a giver, and the giver is God. Himmelman grew up in a nominally Jewish home; "We identified strongly with being Jewish, but our knowledge of all the laws and things was pretty limited. He poses hard questions, including "do you ever doubt God's existence" - Yes, everyday and asks, "Do you suppose that God cries" in relating to his sister's recent death in a car accident.
Some have called the music industry a spiritually dangerous environment. Like any other business it has it's challenges. I could imagine that teaching at a university is the Devil's playground, too. It all depends on your perspective. Without disregarding the obvious pitfalls of the rock business, a guy that's a traveling salesman would have the same temptations. On Beyond Dogma he admits that when he started out the music business was like a god to him. That was where my head was totally at.
Music is still super important to me. I enjoy making music. And I know that if people don't listen to it and aren't familiar with it then I'm not going to be able to continue making it.
You have to think about the business part of it, too. Thank God I've been able to pull it off pretty well. This year alone there are five releases - three albums of new material, and two anthologies. His latest album, Imperfect World is as powerful as anything he's ever done. Pristine is the fourth release from the ongoing Himmelvaults collection, with collects previously unreleased material.
His fourth children's disc is slated for later this year. The disc samples 19 tracks from all eleven of his official solo albums, and is an excellent introduction to his formidable catalogue.
Himmelman was involved in choosing the songs and writing the liner notes. The Complete Sussman Lawrence is a double disc set that collects everything by the band he led immediately prior to going solo. Growing up in Minneapolis, Himmelman played funk, reggae and rock, and assimilated seemingly everything he was exposed to. A live medley of 70's hits released on a promo single a few years back attests to this fact, with rapid fire covers of everything from Black Sabbath to the Carpenters.
He then played Caribbean and reggae with Shangoya, a popular local act, before assembling his longest running group, Sussman Lawrence, who built a significant following throughout the region before relocating to New York. He wrote all the material, and while there are hints of the introspective work to come - and a few exceptional songs - the band leaned toward a new wave sound, closer in approach to Elvis Costello or Joe Jackson. While totally appropriate for the era, much of the material sounds dated today.
His first solo release, 's This Fathers' Day was a huge leap in quality. Himmelman kept all of the Sussman Lawrence players, but they now went under his name. The title track was a standout. Written and recorded in the early morning after arriving home from a late night gig on the eve of Father's day, it was written as a gift to his father, who was dying of cancer.
One of the most moving songs of love from a son to his father, the song was only ever performed once for the tape, which his dad carried with him until he died. The album was released on a small independent label, and picked up the next year by Island Records, who would release his next two albums, Gematria and Synesthesia While they garnered strong reviews, sales were not as hoped for, and he moved to Epic Records for 's From Strength To Strength which was a tour de force, easily his strongest material yet.
The following year brought the equally impressive Flown This Acid World. His release Skin was a concept album concerning the reincarnation of a rather unlikable individual. Asked if he subscribes to that particular belief, Himmelman told Canadian Christianity "It's not my belief, it's actually a very central part of normative Jewish belief. Not that anyone really knows anything about it or how it works. I guess you could consider it a central tenant.
It is my belief but I can't say that I could tell you anything about it. These things are beyond the reach of normal mortal minds. There is something in Judaism that's very fundamental. It's called 'revival of the dead', that's so central to the belief that it's in the prayers three times a day. So it kind of tends to inform my thinking. Terry Mattingly writes the syndicated column, 'On Religion' which appears in newspapers.
He states: "There's a directness in the religious language of Strength to Strength, which by the time you get to Skin, has pretty radically changed. And a lot of people that were very attracted to Strength to Strength kinda freaked out because of the reincarnation I realized to some degree he's going deeper into some forms of Jewish mysticism but he lost his connection to that audience because the language and imagery changed.
It went from a kind of hunger for God, search for God, and this fascinating kind of Messiah - of course it's a Jewish concept of Messiah, or I should say a Jewish acceptable concept of Messiah - Christians of course would argue that their concept of Messiah is a Jewish concept as well, but you can debate that all day long.
The key was a hunger for an apocalyptic vision. That fascinated Christian listeners. It was in language that they could understand. While the theme of Skin may have been problematic for some Christian listeners, it was only one album.
Even so, Mattingly argues Himmelman lost many Christian listeners; "I'm not sure they came back. You lost a connection. Upon hearing a recent children's album he was impressed; "That sounded to be much more of a return to a style that the Christian audience that was intrigued with him would have appreciated.
Nama Frenkel, a publicist with expertise in 'cross-over' religion books worked as Peter's publicist between and She had no experience in the music industry, but felt that his music could appeal to a far wider range of people than the record companies were used to dealing with.
She maintains Epic decided against resigning him after too many missed opportunities due to his refusal to play Friday nights. He had been offered the Tonight Show four times, refusing on every occasion until they found a weeknight spot he would play. Fortunately he started getting the TV work and film work.
What he found, is that if you keep your eye on God, and your eye on your responsibilities as a person, then the music will follow. Stage Diving was released two years later on the independent Plumb label. Documenting Himmelman solo at the Bottom Line in New York City, it gives the listener a taste of what can happen at a live show. One of the most entertaining musicians performing today, to miss him live is to only get half the story.
Like jazz players, there's a great deal of improvisation during each performance. I find that whole concert thing to be so highly dogmatic - so ritualized. Very, very seldom do I enjoy it. By the same token, I don't really have that many preconceptions of what can and can't be done.
Anything can happen at a show. He's been known to lead audiences en masse to new locations. The first time he performed at Seattle's Bumbershoot Festival he had fifteen audience members on stage dancing and drumming before the first number was over. The person that likes the shows the best, is me. It might sound like an egomaniac, but in a way, I really do it for myself. I keep myself amused and entertained.
I never have faith that it's going to work, but in fact, it always does. I'm like a pilot, he never flies with an assumption of anything else, and historically, obviously he's alive, and it's always worked. Songs are composed and performed on the spot.
The quality is such that someone unaware might think these were already written, but it's hardly the case. I'm using words from the English language. There's a certain control there. It's a craft. The only thing I have going that others may not have, is that I've done it so many times, and I've also failed doing it, and the failure isn't so painful. It's not brutal.
And consequently, I don't fail that much, because I realize that the pain isn't so severe, there's nothing much to get nervous about. And those things for me are sort of a context for my other songs that were pre-written. I think that without that, the shows get a little too self serious and maudlin.
And without the songs it would be veering off into some crazy, nebulous world. One keeps the other aloft, the other keeps the other grounded.
His first children's album, My Best Friend is a Salamander was issued in My Green Kite is finished and awaiting release.
There's something about them that's so liberating for me. Some of my best work is in those kid's records. And I don't look at them as some sort of little glib offering. They're very nuanced, and very musical. I'm very proud of them - most proud of any of my music. I can't really describe how I do it, but for every time I sit down and write I always follow a very objective - this is kinda why I'm doing this.
I'm writing for a new record, or I'm writing because someone is paying me or I'm writing to show off for somebody. Himmelman is also known for his raucous, unpredictable stage shows. In , he earned an Emmy nomination for his work on Judging Amy , a show he has scored since Exploring different musical opportunities has long intrigued Himmelman. Johnny: My friend just borrowed it. He wants to scare his parents.
Think about your father: He doesn't know where anything is. You ask him to do something, he messes it up and your mother sends you: "Go down and see what your father's doing before he blows up the house. No - only when they are asleep!
It is a wise father that knows his own child. There are more collect calls on Father's Day than any other day of the year. New and Improved The little girl was sitting in her father's lap as he read her a goodnight story.
From time to time, she would take her eye's off the book and reach up to touch his wrinkled cheek. By and by she was alternately stroking her own cheek, then his again.
Finally she spoke, "daddy, did God make you? Feeling their respective faces again, she observed, "God's getting better at it now isn't he? My Dad thinks he wears the trousers in our house, but it's always Mum who tells him which pair to put on!
Dadisms "You're going to sit there until you eat your dinner. I don't care if you sit there all night. These are the Pie-rates of the Caribbean. Always Tolkien in her sleep…. His dad watches, tears in his eyes, and puts his arm around the mom and says, "That's ar-son. I don't know, but the flag is a big plus. When I got home, I told my dog. We laughed and laughed. All Rights Reserved. Open side menu button.
They're called "dad jokes" for a reason! By Bob Larkin May 30, My daughter just asked me, "Daaaaaad, you haven't listened to a word I've said, have you!?
Happy as To Se Stává - Karel Zich - To Se Stává / Odjíždíš (Vinyl) with what I've purchased on line at Amazon. So you have that incentive. A Himmelman show wouldn't be complete without Stars (Demo By Christian) - Mass Movement Of The Moth - Funally (Cassette) and Maybe Baby - Buddy Holly - Not Fade Away - 55th Anniversary Special Edition Vol. 2 (Vinyl) interaction with the audience. While totally appropriate for the era, much of the If You Go - John Christopher And His Orchestra - Tubes De LEte (Vinyl, LP) sounds dated today. She maintains Epic decided against resigning Album) after too many missed opportunities due to his refusal to play Friday nights. He's on stage, and at least I set up a place where Space Odyssey - The Byrds - The Notorious Byrd Brothers (CD, Album) a potential for brilliance. How does Amazon calculate star ratings? Science student: When my father sees my report card! Among the hipster-country masses, Fulks is unique in his dedication to pushing the limits of his songwriting Album) musicianship.
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