Every artist wants his album to be as perfect as can be, but sometimes he has to take a gamble. Is the song he’s deliberating over going to soar or flop? Is the intro going to hook the guys or be a sleeper? How do these entertainers know they made the right choice?
WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 10, 2017
The Story Behind the Song "Somewhere a Star" Abie Rottenberg
“Over the years, I came to know that what he did for me, he did for countless others. After Reb Eli’s petirah, Sheya Mendelowitz — a former talmid of his — approached me to write a song in his memory.
It was my honor to do so. Sheya wanted the song to be introduced at ‘The Event,’ a major concert in 2009 that would pay tribute to Rabbi Teitelbaum. It turned out that I would be unable to attend due to a family wedding that night, so Sheya arranged for a video session during which Mordechai Ben David and I sang the tribute together, which was entitled‘Somewhere a Star — Kakochavim L’olam Va’ed.’ Sheya then arranged for the video to be aired at the concert in conjunction with a live performance including a Pirchei choir led by Eli Gerstner. This was not a simple matter to pull off, but it worked beautifully. Because of the video, the audience
assumed that both Mordechai and I were not in attendance. So when he came out as a surprise guest on stage in the second half of the show, it brought the house down.”
“Mah mah mah, mah mah mah mah, mah tovu ohalecha Yaakov” — the energetic wake-up-to-another-wonderful-morning song sung by Yaakov Shwekey on his Leshem Shamayim album was inspired by a simple morning encounter in Yitzy Waldner’s Lakewood shul.
“The guy next to me at minyan always used to come in chanting something under his breath as he put on his tallis. I leaned in closer to hear what he was saying, and it was ‘Mah Tovu.’ The song came to me in a flash, and by the time I brought my coffee back, I had the complete tune in my mind. Right after Shacharis, I called Yaakov, and he came over later that day. Hashem had sent
us a great song.”
LAST MINUTE DECISIONS
“I wrote the song ‘Katonti’ with three different intros, and each one had a place in my heart,” says the Jerusalem-based composer. The intro to Yonatan Razel’s “Katonti” is a beloved piece in its own right. A classical style and rippling string movements capture the heart of the song even before a word is sung. But it almost wasn’t. “I was so torn over which one should be the final choice. It was Yochi Briskman who said, ‘This is the one.’ The verdict? I think he was right.”
“When Shmueli Ungar was almost done with his first album, Shmueli-2, we sat together in the studio one night and looked over the song list. But I had this niggling feeling that we didn’t have a good enough ‘get up and dance’ song. So I told Shmueli to open a siddur and look for some inspiration for a song. Singer Shimmy Engel was also there, and I don’t remember exactly who mentioned the words ‘Emes v’emunah kol zos,’ but the idea popped into my head and the niggun just came… Together we finished the song, which everyone knows as ‘Emes.’ It was done in like 15 minutes or so."
“My album Machshavos was ready to go. Everything was recorded with the choir and vocals too. I reviewed it, but I had this feeling that one of the Yiddish songswas a little too heavy for the mix. After all the time and money we’d invested in that song, we withdrew it, and substituted the song ‘Shevach’ at the last minute, which gave the album a more leibedig, freilich feel. I’m holding onto the other song until the time is right.”
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