Israeli Rock guitarist Menachem Herman has teamed up with "The IDF Commando Rabbi," Lazer Brody, to do Jewish versions of old rock classics like Sweet Home Alabama, Knockin' on Heaven's Door as part of their new Emuna Rock project.
Menachem Herman is known for being the guitar genius behind the Metalish Jewish metal albums.
Click here to watch the Youtube Music Video
Rabbi Brody is a frequent guest on Weekend Edition with Tamar Yonah on Israel National Radio. He is the author
I thought, is that the best we can do at somebody's wedding? Is this uplifting anybody?
of many books and CDs on spirituality and self-help. He was formerly a commando in the Israel Defense Forces and served in the first Lebanon War, known as the Peace for the Galilee campaign. He wrote the lyrics to most of the new Emuna Rock series.
Menachem Herman has released several CDs featuring both wedding music, rock and hasidic pop, including originals and Jewish standards. He is also known for Metalish, which released three CDs in the 1990s of Jewish classics and klezmer on electric guitar. "When you take Metallica and make them Jewish you get Metalish." says Herman. "Some people loved it, some people didn't."
The most popular of the reworked songs is "Sweet Home Jerusalem", a take off of Lynyrd Skynyrd's 1974 hit "Sweet Home Alabama". The video has been gaining hits on YouTube and other video sites. The song includes a line addressing the "UN and Uncle Sam" that "Jerusalem won't be split in two." Other songs include the Beatles' "With a Little Help from my Friends" which becomes "With a Little Help from Hashem". Other songs are taken from Boston, Santana, Carole King and Wilson Pickett.
Herman and Brody spoke energetically about the music to Israel National Radio's Ben Bresky on The Beat,
We're not telling people what to do or pandering religion
singing lines from their newly recorded tracks and talking enthusiastically about their concept of helping people get in touch with a higher being without "telling people what to do or pandering religion" as Rabbi Brody puts it.
The full interview including music can be heard here.
Question: Tell us a little about the project:
Menachem Herman: The first phase of this project is to do songs that people are already familiar with because the songs will go down easier.
Question: The two of you have been in Israel for a long time and been immersed in Israeli and Jewish music and now you're going back to old stuff.
Menachem Herman: I've been in Israel for almost 30 years. My band plays for a lot of Anglos. People always come to me with requests for oldies. A lot of the songs are repeat requests. This gave us the inspiration. For example we've played "You've Got a Friend" many times. It became "You've Got Hashem".
This is a story that Rav Lazer has never heard. It's a prelude to this whole project. He's going to hear it for the first time on the radio. There was a guy from London. We played his wedding. This is before I met Rav Lazer. The groom was in the Nahal Haredi unit of the Israel Defense Forces and a lot of soldiers were there -- with their guns!
One friend came up and said he wanted to sing for the groom 'Knock Knock Knockin' on heaven's door'. [a song by Bob Dylan also popularized by Guns N' Roses]. I hadn't heard the song in a long time. As I was listening to the lyrics, I thought, is that the best we can do at somebody's wedding? Is this uplifting anybody? We have to do something more.
All of the sudden it hit me. We got to the chorus of the song, even though the original words imply 'I'm one foot out of this world, I'm finished'. I thought, that what one guy looks at as leaving the world is another guy's ticket to success. We have to knock on heaven's door and speak to Hashem. The groom ended up becoming an Emuna outreach worker, writing articles for Rav Lazer's web site.
Question: So you two grew up with this stuff?
Rabbi Brody: Yes, for sure. When I used to wrestle on the varsity team in high school and we would work out, doing what we called footwork. We used to play "I'm gonna wait to the midnight hour." Now we're taking this stuff from our youth and using this energy to help them get closer to themselves and closer to Hashem.