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Returning to Music 30 Years After Return to Judaism

French singer Gilbert Sitbon left a stellar career in its prime to study Torah; he now finds his way back to the studio.
By Ari Yashar
First Publish: 3/6/2014, 10:22 PM

Gilbert (Aharon) Sitbon
Gilbert (Aharon) Sitbon
Screenshot

30 years after leaving a stellar musical career in France to connect to his Judaism, Gilbert (Aharon) Sitbon has returned to the studio to record a stirring rendition of the classic prayer "Adon Olam," set to a unique French tune.

As a 20-year-old Sitbon began performing in France, quickly becoming a major singer and gaining recognition throughout Europe. Sitbon released dozens of recordings and sold hundreds of thousands of copies of his albums, becoming one of the most played singers on French radio.

However, right at the height of his career, with his agent asking to sign him for a long-term performance contract, Sitbon made a life-changing decision to devote himself to Torah study, becoming a Chabad hassid and spending his time between Israel and France.

Sitbon refused numerous requests by agents to record and perform again, being fully satisfied with his life of Torah, and not feeling any need to return to music -- until a fateful night when he recalled a beautiful tune that filled his head and prevented him from sleeping.

The tune was composed by his friend Michel Fogan, another popular French singer who used to be at the same agent's office as Sitbon. Unable to fall asleep after being roused by the uplifting melody, Sitbon dug his dusty guitar out of the basement and sang Adon Olam to the tune.

"The piyut (liturgical poem) Adon Olam is a piyut about accepting the yoke of the Creator's kingdom; He is the one and only, the helper and redeemer," commented Sitbon. "If a single Jew finds the connection to his Creator through the song, that will be my reward."

Although Sitbon abandoned his musical career, the talent lives on through his son David who has taken the mantle from his father, becoming a successful hassidic singer performing at events and weddings.

One of Gilbert (Aharon) Sitbon's French albums Old Album Cover