Hi Everyone – This is my first blog post on Times of Israel. It is a pleasure to be a part of this great website/organization! Most of my posts will be Jewish Music oriented. But every once in awhile I might surprise you with something….out of the box!
My friend Adam Schwartz from Nofei Aviv in Bet Shemesh, Israel called me up a couple of days ago and he asked me the following question. “Which Prayer is the easiest to put music to?” Before I answer the question — for those who don’t know me — I am the leader of Shlock Rock and have parodied about 200 songs since 1986. So first – some definitions – What’s a parody? That’s when you take a song popular or otherwise and change the words to it in order to make fun, satire, convey a political message or just teach something whether it be secular or Jewish. There needs to be a connection between what you are writing and the original lyrics. To put it plainly, in the case of a Shlock Rock song parody you have to imagine that the original writer is Jewish and he wants to sing about something Jewish as opposed to his topic. And he will write lyrics in the exact meter and rhyme that he wrote the original song. An example? Every Breath you Take became Every Bite you Take, Under the Boardwalk became Under the Chupah, Barbara Ann became Abarbanel, etc…And I could go on and on.
But Adam was not asking about a parody, he was asking about an adaptation. What’s an adaptation? That’s when you take someone’s song and put words to it that have no relationship whatsoever. For instance you take an English song and put Hebrew words from the Prayer book. That is called an adaptation and it is illegal to record without the permission of the original writers. When I released “A Shabbat in Liverpool” where I took 27 Beatles songs and put them to Sabbath Prayers and Sabbath Songs sung at meals, I had 21 adaptations and needed permission or licensing from the original artists. It took five years before I got it, and the album was released in 2010. And so now you have the definition of a parody and an adaptation.
The last definition I will give you is a cover tune. That is where you take someone’s existing song and re-record it. No permission is necessary. It is a compulsory license and the writers get all the writing royalties. An example is the Beatles Yesterday which has been covered lots and lots and lots of times.
Now back to the question at hand. Which prayer is the easiest one to put a song to? The two prayers that came to mind were Adon Olam and Shir Hamaalot. People have said that Adon Olam is without a question the easiest. So many songs go to Adon Olam. The 1812 Overture, Sharm El Sheikh, and the classics. Certainly there are many many tunes that fit into Adon Olam perfectly!
But for me…by far it is Shir Hamaalot – The song of Ascents, the psalm that you sing before Grace after Meals. I have put the following songs to it and I am just skimming the surface…
- Beethoven’s 9th Symphony 4th Movement
- Bach’s Two Part Invention Number 1
- Billy Joel’s For the Longest Time
- John Denver’s Country Roads
- The Carpenters Top of the World
- Disney’s It’s a small world after all
This is just the beginning….There is so much more. Current Chasidic Melodies, Old Israeli Classic’s, you name it – it fits! I would love to hear your songs… Let me know your favorites whether it be Adon Olam, Shir Hamaalot or something else…perhaps Lecha Dodi!
But remember…don’t record it! You need permission!!!
The King of Shlock over and out!