Photo Credit:
Abie Rotenberg

But other songs I’ve struggled with, and it’s taken me a long time to find the right lyric, the right word, and, even musically, the right note. For example, I wrote a song about the Holocaust called “What Will Become of All the Memories?” which took me five years to finish. And I have many songs that have never been published – and may never be published – simply because I haven’t been able to finish them.

A recent reviewer of your book called you “an Orthodox Paul Simon.” Are your music styles comparable?


Well, I love Paul Simon’s music and I was certainly influenced by Simon and Garfunkel growing up in the 1960s. I also loved and was influenced by the Mitchell Trio.

How about Jewish influences?

Shlomo Carlebach, Baruch Chait, Moshe Yess. I also know Modzhitz music very well and loved Ben Zion Schenker growing up. I mentioned earlier that my father knew chassidic music, so my musical influences are chassidic, Carlebach, Simon and Garfunkel, the Beatles – I guess, like most people, it’s a real cholent.

Can you share some memories of your interactions with Shlomo Carlebach and Moshe Yess?

I played guitar once with Shlomo. This was when I was just starting out – I was maybe 19 years old – and Shlomo had hurt his leg and couldn’t stand and hold his guitar because he was on crutches. He had a concert at Queens College and somebody heard that I knew how to play guitar, so they called me up at the last minute and promised that Shlomo was going to come early and rehearse the songs with me.

Well, Shlomo came an hour late – not only to the rehearsal, but to the concert itself – and it was like a nightmare because I didn’t know what he was singing and he didn’t know what I was playing. But we got through the night, baruch Hashem.

How about Moshe Yess?

Moshe Yess and I were very close. Not only did he sing on the Journeys albums – “The Ninth Man,” “There’s No Place Like Home,” “The Pesach Blues” – but he was also my partner in the first Marvelous Middos Machine production. I was teaching in a school in Toronto at the time and every afternoon after Minchah I would go over to his house and for two or three hours we’d write songs and the script together. It was one of the best and most creative periods of my life.

Moshe Yess was an incredibly creative person, and his music had a deep impact upon me. When I heard his great song “My Zaidy” for the first time, it opened my eyes and I said, “There can be quality folk Jewish music” – and I was determined to try my hand at it.

What inspired you to write the Marvelous Middos Machine for children after writing so many successful compositions for adults?      

Having my own children. The Marvelous Middos Machine is a series that focuses on trying to get kids to make the correct choices – not to lie, not to be jealous, not to be lazy, not to fight, not to embarrass others, etc. And I wanted to educate children in these middos in a creative way.

And honestly, some of the most enjoyable lyrics for me to write have been the children’s lyrics. For example: “Never Take Kids to a Store” – I love that song. I wrote it myself, but I love it. It was so much fun to write.

I wonder if adults appreciate the lyrics more than children.

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Elliot Resnick is the former chief editor of The Jewish Press and the author and editor of several books including, most recently, “Movers & Shakers, Vol. 3.”