Photo by Tim Boxer
ALTHOUGH rock singer Peter
Himmelman attained cult status among a multitude of devoted followers, he has yet to
achieve popular acclaim with a Top 100 album.
Hes worked for 18 years but is not yet a
household name. That could be because he refuses to play Friday nights, the biggest night
of the week for the clubs.
He observes the Sabbath, you see.
I recently received his latest album, Love
Thinketh No Evil on the Six Degrees label. I was moved by his sound and lyrics, which
he wrote himself. He says he was influenced by Jimi Hendrix, The Beatles, Bob Dylan
and the Lubavitcher Rebbe.
I had to meet him. It wasnt easy. He was
touring the country.
So when he came to the East Village for a
one-night stand at the Bottom Line, I was there.
At a late afternoon rehearsal I was a rapt
audience of one. On stage he was rocking away with a band of five musicians.
Garbed in nondescript black turtleneck sweater,
brown pants, and woven cap, he was a picture of your typical rock n roller.
Except for the tzitzis!
As Peter swayed his guitar, strutting from one
end of the stage to the other, his tzitzis were flapping in the air.
After rehearsal I went to his dressingroom.
"You gotta wait five minutes," the
manager said. "Hes doing mincha."
Peter finished the afternoon prayer and ushered
me into the room. It barely contained a cot, a chair and a mirrored makeup table. The only
item on the table was a Lubavitch siddur (prayer book).
He told me he was born 39 years ago in
Minneapolis and grew up in a secular home. Religion seemed irrelevant in his life till he
met a Lubavitch Hasid in Manhattan.
"Ever since that encounter 15 years
ago," he says, "Ive been putting on tefilin, davening three times a day,
keeping kosher and observing Shabbat. Im raising an Orthodox family."
He lives with his wife Maria and four children in
Santa Monica, Calif.
Himmelman, whose name means "man of
heaven" in Yiddish, says his religious observance is breaking new ground in the rock
Bob Dylan must be proud. After all, hes not
only Peters idol, but his father-in-law too.