search

Lenny and Nachum: Still going strong after all these years

The Jewish music business is highly mercurial – one minute you might be selling out concerts and be on top of the world, the next minute people hardly know your name.

However, there are a couple of Jewish music personalities who have defied the odds – and who are still going strong after entertaining folks during five different decades: Lenny Solomon and Nachum Segal.

I first met Lenny Solomon in the mid-1980’s when we first moved to Stamford. We hosted Lenny and his bandmate, Yona Lloyd, for Shabbat, as Lenny was involved in the programming for a Shabbaton at our shul and was planning to perform with his band on Saturday night. This was before he had founded his band, Shlock Rock, and was part of a band called Kesher.

I have always been extremely interested in what Lenny has now been doing for decades – writing parody songs with Jewish themes to English songs – as it was something I had also done during my youth. Along with my buddies David Blumenthal, Eddie Susman, and Michael Taubes, we had created some very clever take-offs on West Side Story, the Sound of Music, and My Fair Lady – and performed the parodies at the NCSY Etz Chaim regional conventions in the 1970s. But I admit it was nowhere near as cute and clever as Lenny’s songs, “Abarbanel” and “Hit Me with Your Best P’shat” (two of my favorite Shlock Rock songs), and his Shabbat at Liverpool album, in which he brilliantly matched Beatles melodies to various parts of the Shabbat services.

However, what’s most amazing about Lenny’s career is that he has been able to do what he loves (make music and make kids and adults of all ages feel good about their Jewish heritage) for several decades – not as a side gig, but as a full-time profession! Lenny left his job as an accountant to pursue his interests, and he has managed to make Shlock Rock into a career. Talk to other folks in the Jewish music business (who generally perform part time), and they will tell you how incredibly difficult this is to accomplish.

One of the great joys I recently had was when our three grandchildren attended a Shlock Rock concert last year – marking three generations of folks in our family who have now enjoyed Shlock Rock performances.

Lenny is more than just Shlock Rock, though. He has a deep sense of Jewish pride, which has translated into some excellent original English songs that he has written. His latest project is an entire original musical score he composed about the Book of Daniel, which is rarely taught in our Jewish day schools but contains very important and relevant messages about hope and faith in politically turbulent times. Lenny had originally tried to raise the money to produce “Daniel in Babylon” on Broadway, but now is planning a fully staged production that will be streamed on the Internet. (If you are interested in investing in the production, contact Lenny at ShlockRock1@gmail.com.)

About the same time that Lenny was getting started, Nachum Segal was contemplating his career choices. He was the general manager of WYUR, Yeshiva University’s radio station. While he was a senior at the school, he launched his Jewish music show, JM in the AM, on radio station WFMU in Jersey City. The rest, as they say, is history.

Nachum has interviewed and played the music of virtually every singer and songwriter in the Jewish music world in the past 40 years. If you are a new artist and looking to get exposure, getting play time and an interview on Nachum’s show is a must. Nachum has legions of Jewish music fans across the globe. It’s no wonder that he is often asked to emcee Jewish music concerts, and announce the bride and groom with his booming voice before the first dance at Jewish weddings.

In the early days of his show, Nachum would wake up in the wee hours of the morning, and make the trip every weekday from his home in the Lower East Side to the studio in New Jersey, in order to broadcast his show at 6AM. When a blizzard or other bad weather was predicted, he would leave the night before and sleep over at the studio, so as not to disappoint his listeners. When did he daven in the morning?  Before or after the show – or sometimes even during the show (which explains the very long stretches of music he often plays without interruption).

Rabbi Haskel Lookstein, one of Nachum’s early guests on his show, was so impressed with Nachum’s interviewing skills, that he said, “Nachum, you could do such a great job in the rabbinate.” To which Nachum responded, “Yes, Rabbi Lookstein, but where am I going to find a pulpit with tens of thousands of listeners.”

The tens of thousands of listeners he originally attracted has now increased to a global quantity of close to 200,000 listeners per day. Nachum was savvy enough to recognize the power of the Internet early and transform his small radio show that he broadcast from New Jersey (and that could only be picked up by those who lived close enough to his signal) to a digital platform, the Nachum Segal Network, that could be accessed online from anywhere in the world.

Perhaps Nachum’s real genius is that he is equally beloved in the Modern Orthodox community and the more Haredi communities, not a small task in today’s increasingly polarized Orthodox Jewish world. He has focused on bringing music – the universal language – to Jewish communities across the globe, and makes sure to choose guests who can be equally appreciated by diverse Jewish audiences.

His regulars include Malcolm Hoenlein, who provides timely commentary on the news that relates to the Jewish community, and Rabbi Dovid Goldwasser and Rabbi Benjamin Yudin, who offer thoughtful divrei Torah. When our community is in mourning (after the Tree of Life massacre in Pittsburgh, for example), Nachum makes it a point to be there in solidarity. And his broadcasts from the Nefesh b’Nefesh trips and from Hebron on Parshat Chayei Sarah weekend are legendary.

In recent years, Nachum has expanded his horizons from simply playing Jewish music and interviewing guests — and has begun a new project, the Jewish Unity Initiative (JUI). Nachum utilizes his station to present special broadcasts and events of unity and harmony from Jewish communities around the world that are designed to celebrate, support, invigorate, and unite the Jewish people.

Nachum is currently conducting his end-of-year fund raising effort, and you can still make a donation by visiting causematch.com/fjb22

I am proud to consider both Lenny and Nachum friends, and wish them both hatzlacha as they continue to bring meaningful and important work to us all and make our community look good.

About the Author
Michael Feldstein, who lives in Stamford, CT, is the founder and owner of MGF Marketing, a direct marketing consulting firm. His articles and letters have appeared in The Jewish Link, The Jewish Week, The Forward, and The Jewish Press. He can be reached at michaelgfeldstein@gmail.com
Related Topics
Related Posts