New York – Gershon Veroba Converts Secular Music, Is It Kosher?

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    New York – “Kosher” covers for international music hits are not a novelty in Jewish music, and countless songs have already been “converted to Judaism” for the ultra-Orthodox sector.

    Admittedly, the genre may not represent creativity and originality at their best, but still there are times when a more professional product emerges. An example for this is the album “Second Impressions” by New York-based singer and producer Gershon Veroba. Although in the past he produced “kosher” versions for popular hits, two years ago Veroba released a solo album titled “Reach Out” and it seemed that he was headed for a career based on his own materials.

    In a conversation with Ynet Veroba admitted that he did not really want to make the new album, but was persuaded to do so after pressure from his audience whom he did not want to disappoint. “If people enjoy it so much, why not give it to them?” he said.

    Veroba stressed that the new album was produced at the highest professional level, and that a lot of thought has been put into the lyrics, which are probably the most important part of the project. “By the way,” he added, “these are not parodies but an attempt to give new meaning to songs of a non-religious nature and adapt them for the Jewish-religious audience.”

    Most artists, said Veroba, were either positive or indifferent towards the initiative to ‘”convert” their songs, while some “made life tough.” For example, in order to get permission to use the song “Incomplete” by the Backstreet Boys Veroba had to get the signatures of 10 different people.

    How did you decide which songs to “convert”?

    “It’s very hard work. We had close to a 100 songs from which to choose… sometimes people think that it’s enough to include the words ‘Torah,’ ‘mitzvah,’ ‘Messiah’ and ‘oy vey’ and then they’ll have a good Jewish song, but it just doesn’t work like that. There has to be a musical justification for changing the lyrics.”

    The new album, which was recently released in the United States and is being distributed in Israel by RNY Productions, includes 12 pop hits from the years 1976-2007. Among them are the Backstreet Boys’ “Incomplete”; “Everybody Knows God Rules the World” (based on Tears for Fears’ song “Everybody Wants to Rule the World); and “Run from the Egyptians” (based on The Bangles’ “Walk like an Egyptian).

    Run From The Egyptians/ The lyrics

    All the old paintings on the tombs

    Don’t have our ancestors in the shot

    They carry bricks, they’re falling down

    dying on the spot

    Slavedriver man by the Nile

    He whipped me and now he turns to you

    400 years

    The suffering’s all we ever knew

    Time for us to board the bus. Say

    ”Run from the Egyptians”

    Saved by the water, Moshe

    Grew up to be our super man

    Walked up to Phar’oh

    Said: time for the Jews to leave the land

    The king kept changing his mind

    His hardened heart brought the plagues of ten

    Darkness & death

    Came down upon all Egyptians

    Royal swells in the king’s hotel say

    ”Run from the Egyptians”

    The recipe for the bread, eighteen minutes,

    maybe less, no more

    Don’t you complain

    Your life will be better than before

    They want us back, we won’t return

    we trust in one god. His name is one

    He split the sea

    Egyptian guards drowning as they run

    Children of Israel rejoice and thanking Hashem

    they see the light

    They sing and dance

    Accepting the Torah Moshe writes

    Philistines in smithereens know

    No fun for the Egyptians

    Run from the Egyptians

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    66 COMMENTS

        • Not one of them can hold a candle to previous tzadikim. Earlier tzadikim had just as much daas torah, if not more. The only difference is that they were not on an ego trip. They did not demand respect and ultimate, unchallenged, power. And all under the guise of Daas Torah.

        • We should consider that rabbonim should do kiddush Hashem in their way and singers should do it in their way. Avram Fried is not one of the Gedolei Hador, but he works al kiddush Hashem constantly and inspires thousands of people.
          Just because Gershon Veroba sings a lot of English and isn’t chassidish, doesn’t mean he hasn’t worked and succeeded al kiddush Hashem. It also shouldn’t make him a target for narrow minds who wish he did something else.

          Everyone does what they can, in their own way. Rabbonim do what they do, musicians do what they do, carpenters and tailors do what they do. If it makes us better Jews, then that’s a good thing. From what I see, Veroba is doing his part and he does it well, which is more than some people, no matter who they may be.

        • Sounds not only like a jugment, but an insult. If anybody, including the tzadikim, could do such a thing, you would have to be at least as good as Veroba to do a good job changing a song. You don’t have to be a tzaddik to elevate a song.

          Even so, I also don’t think anyone, including Veroba, considers these songs as reaching the level of “kedusha,” It’s just a certain kind of entertainment that’s OK for Jews to enjoy.

          • “entertainment that’s OK for Jews to enjoy.”
            Thats it in a nutshell. Exactly what our leaders are totally against – ANYTHING That is enjoyable. And then we wonder why our teens are rebelling. If it’s enjoyable, its assur. Sigh.

    1. I really think its the bad thing is the way he tries use similar words from the original song, if he would just take the tune and put some lushon koidesh words then it would not be that terrible.

      • Maybe not, but what’s so different and challenging about that? That’s what he says in this article…that he doesn’t want to just be “yoitzei” by throwing in a few keywords. These songs make a point without having to do that. Why would you bother? His songs are supposed to be entertaining, not holy. From what I’ve read about him here and elsewhere, that’s what he’s trying to do.

        Even some hard core, anti-secular rabbonim are encouraging what he does because his songs have a purpose, not just to cheat off of someone else’s songs and take the easy way out. He’s proven himself as an independent composer, but to make these songs new and appealing to a Jewish audience is something apparently no many can do as well as he does. It’s obvious to me that keeping some words from the original song help maintain the magic of the original, but he balances that out by blending in well-written original lyrics that fit perfectly with the old.

        I see that and, from what I’ve heard and read, thousands of other people see that, too.

      • Somehow I don’t think so. However, it would be nice if the Jewish music could be creative and original with their music. Then maybe I would actually like it.

        • Then you should check out his other albums. Read the article. He’s done a lot of original stuff and I don’t think this would have been as good as it is if he didn’t have that ability. It’s not as if he’s pretending it’s original and it’s not. His original albums are original, high quality and unbelievably creative, but even you still haven’t listened to them. This is what the people respond to, including you!

      • no, we go to the threshold of the 49th when our kids turn to actual secular music with inappropriate lyrics and the whole culture that comes with it because you were too “frum” to allow them a kosher alternative…

      • “we are all ready in the 48 gates of tumah”
        “We”? Speak for yourself.
        BTW, if this would take you “into threshold of the 49th” you have a lot more to worry about than Gershon Veroba’s creative & entertaining music.

      • FYI: once we go into the 49th gate of tumah moshiach will come just like in Egypt so with your logic Gershon is actually bringing moshiach closer, thanks Gershon

      • .the only way that the world receives a tikkun is when the entire world is elevated back to the Ribono Shel Olom….everything needs a tikun including music.when someone takes a non holy song and uses it to sing about praising hashem,there is nothing unholy about that,in fact its extremely holy….

      • What does that mean?
        How he looks or sounds is really a matter of personal opinion.
        Of course, many people on this page think their opinion is the law, so maybe he IS a duck.
        How he smells may be another matter, but I haven’t heard any complaints.

      • It doesn’t look that way. “Schlock Rock” does that and it sounds like it, usually being clever and funny. Veroba is making some serious productions with this stuff, sounding almost exactly like the original. Of course, the songs aren’t always actually “serious,” which is good, too. This video is an example. His audience is also wider.

        According to the YouTube description and other stuff I’ve read, he also is one of the few that actually gets permission from the composers to do this and pays royalties for it, which is what “Wierd All” does.

        • There’s a very fine line about what’s permissible in a song parody. The defining case at the moment involves Roy Orbison’s “Pretty Woman”, which was parodied by a rap group despite being refused permission by Acuff-Rose, the song’s publishers. Before that, the defining case was Irving Berlin vs. E.C. Publications (Mad Magazine) – Mad had printed song parody lyrics and Berlin sued. The courts threw out his claims on all but one count (the judge pointed out that no one in their right mind would mistake “Louella Schwartz Describes Her Malady” for “A Pretty Girl Is Like A Melody”).

          Nowadays, if an artist wants to do a small number of covers or parodies (less than five thousand copies) it’s a simple matter. Most popular songs can be licensed in a matter of minutes from the Harry Fox Agency, including the Beatles, Elvis Presley, etc. If you want a license to make more than 5000 copies, then it starts to get into heavy negotiations.

      • I believe you’ve missed the point entirely. Just because you don’t appreciate the music he uses (that is, if you listened to it at all), doesn’t mean he doesn;t do a good job at what he does. In fact, he does flatter the performers he imitates and the songs he copies.
        Just because you want him to be something else, doesn’t mean he’s doing anything wrong. Maybe he DOES imitate holy people and maybe he does it just as well, but not on his albums, though the things he writes are quite inspiring, according to alot of people, including rabbonim.
        By the way, which holy people are the other singers imitating?

      • the music belongs to Hashem not to the musician who sings or plays it…all Mr Veroba is doing, is taking music that is not being used for the service of our Creator and elevating it so that it can be used to praise hashem with….imagine that their was a lot of money in the world that was being used for unholy activities ,and then you had the chance to use this money to serve hashem with.would you then say”well since this money was used for unholy activities,we shouldn’t ever use it to serve hashem with….The very point of Golus is for us Am Yisroel, to show the rest of the world that everything that exists is for the Glory of Hashem…..

        • although your point may sound like good common sense but the torah does not support it.
          I’m not going into the issue if gershon does the right think or not but I’m commenting on ur point that its not so simple to say that whatever you can take from tumah should be brought to kedushe.
          just a couple of examples: things that were used for avodq zara cannot be used for kedushe. money that was received from a mechalel shabbos are not to be used for kedusha. there r many more. I’m coming back again to my comment in #47 that the way the torah thinks is completely diffferent then the regular common sense guy “daas torah hepech daas bal habayis” you reaally need to be a big talmud chuchem and yerei shamayim to know the daas torah.

      • If you’re talking about the painting of the Rebbe in the end of the video, I think it was part of the havdalahs that were going on there, the things that were in Mitzraim compared to what we’ve got now. I saw an Egyptian painting, then a painting of the Rebbe, l’havdil. An Egyptian scroll of hyroglyphics, then a klaf, l’havdil. I don’t remember the rest.

      • Does anyone here have any real opinions about his album after listening to it?
        Everybody’s making comments, but should I buy it? It sound really interesting, judging from all the arguments, but I don’t see any real opinions on the album, which is what the article’s about.

        • Who mentioned ‘tayvos’ ? i just stated a fact! you listened to variations after a lifetime of listening to secular music. for me it was the opposite..

        • thats a very dumb thing to say. Many people can be opened up to secular music by listening to this type of stuff. The point of veroba, shlock rock, and others is to give people who would otherwise listen to secular music something that has a positive and jewish message

    2. In reply to #3. The Ribbono Shel Olam has given us BECHIRA. We all have a right to choose which music we like and which we don’t. And I say this to our self righteous “Gedolim” too. If you don’t like it, DON’T LISTEN!!. But you do not have a right to tell me not to listen. Music is not tumah. Get a life.

    3. I guess if the original artists signoff and take the royalties, its ok — but the whole point is that these songs are important artistic creations — eg “everybody wants to rule the world” was so powerful because it precisely defined the “me” culture of the 80’s — the whole point was that it captured society at a point in time which is why it remains a deeply ingrained icon of that era. Changing the words to make them kosher, kind of loses the reason artists create songs in the first place.

    4. to # 3 and #4… there are therapists, both in and out of the frum world (in case you’re embarassed) who can help you out with the problems you both appear to have. Perhaps chat with a Rav and see why it is that you are so profoundly dragged down by innocent activities of others. If these activities are destroying your souls then maybe solitary confinement would be good for you.

      Those of us who are mentally stable however will find that we are not “brought to the 49th gate of tumah” or “hooked” on things based on the music entertainment of Mr. Veroba.

      Seriously, seek help for your families’ sake.

    5. Its sad that we hit this state
      the skulener rebbe spoke out against this kind of music
      and he does and knows kirruv so that heter is useless
      all we can say is nebach

      • Chaim, just because the Skulener Rebbe spoke out against “this kind of music” does not make it assur. As others have said, nobody is forcing him, or you, to listen. He stated his opinion, and you may follow it. I choose not to. The same way that I like listening to Lipa, even though a certain “godol hador (in his own mind)” has a personal vendetta against him and would do anything to destroy him.

        • its funny how the idiot always finds others to be the idiots.
          the torah is not something that every mind can interpert. u have to be on a level of daas torah to say what the torah and hashem like and what not. the skulene rabbi is a flat out tzaddik and his interperetation of the torah is valid. now ur daas and the daas of all the commentators that take ur approach of trying to decide what the torah wants, is no more then trash. it does not mean anything when it comes to the torah.
          in the secular world we were brought up to think that every shmoo boo’s opinion is valid as much as the experts opinion. this is simple arrogance. at least as long as the opinion in question is just for a shtus then big deal but with the torah it does not work that way. we are dealing with either getting closer to hashem or c”v ……. in this case sorry my friends “ur” opinon does “not” count at all. gut shabbos

        • Then you must surely hate yourself. Its a sad day when people take the sayings of tzadikim as suggestions. You should beg mercy from hashem for saying such things about a tzadik. Also, please tell us , how much torah do you learn eveyday?

    6. I just went to a really charedi wedding and I hate to tell you, they played the Beatles and no one there knew it… most of the Jewish music we have today is completely secular in origin, including (the shock) some niggunim, so like, wake up.

    7. please everybody listen too me. i am a singer who resently had all this gabage said about me. stop talking about rabunim and what you think is right or wrong. it did nt help the story it just ripped apart klal yisruel. at the end of the day all the loshin horah that went on was worse then anything that i could have singged on stage. in the end i sang on stage anyway. let gershin do his thing and you do your thing. thank you.

    8. Why is ther a Double Standard here? Why do idiots in her complain about Gershon’s music, when they have been listening to and dancing to MBD’s Music for years which has been taken from Secular music? The tune of ‘Yeeden’ was directly taken (without permission) from a German Group in the 80’s – Ghingas Khan. So all you fake jews go to h***

      • To “Double Standard?”

        I know exactly what you mean – I was thinking the exa ct same thing myself! But, and I’m not speaking for anyone else – did you consider that perhaps people may be unaware that MBD (and others, I’m aware) have taken some tunes or bits thereof for their frum music?

        Instead of cursing people and speaking ill of them, try to educate them first. If they then fail to see the similarities or argue the point, then I’d agree that they are fakes. But cursing them is bad form and it will not make anyone receptive to your comments.

        One catches more flies with honey than vinegar, after all…

    9. He is really for people who were not so frum and are becoming frum and want to enjoy the music they used to listen to in a “kosher” way. Otherwise, in my opinion this music isn’t for a real frum Jew who never listened to the goyish version in the first place…

      • “Jack”,
        Just wanted to say that while I do agree with you – if you’ve never heard this kind of music before, it really isn’t suitable, unless you live in Eretz Yisroel or control the media in any other country, you will be exposed to it, and you may not even realize you are so familiar with it until you find yourself humming along.

        It’s the same concept as not using certain words in front of children or trying to take in Torah and yiddishe themes and occasions while pregnant or just to supplement your children and family’s educational development. Everything we see, hear and taste stays with us.

        Which of courrse also raises the issue that if you have heard it and tucked it away where you don’t access the memory it’s better than hearing the “kosher” version and reviving that memory…

        Quite a connundrum.

        In any case, you make a good point and I wanted to say yasher koach for sharing.

    10. Some people really surprise me. And I don’t mean the musician here – I’m talking about some of the people commenting with things like “How much lower can we get” and such.

      I would like to say the following but preface my own comment with these words:

      I do not speak for others. I am not making light or little of other people’s opinions. I am not saying it’s kosher or unkosher, good or bad. Do not put words into my mouth when you respond and do not assume that because I speak my opinion, that if it does not match you own, it isn’t equally important or true. In the past I have had too many people tell me that I don’t know what I’m talking about or that I’m wrong. We are all entitled to an opinion and we all deserve respect. As a reader and poster her, I have respected your right to speak your thoughts; allow me the same courtesy. Thank you.

      On to the comment.

      Throughout the years, Jews from all levels of religious practice and thought have tried to steer current and future generations in a better direction, a Torah based path.

      I will not compare Mr. Veroba to Tzaddikim and Gedolim – even Tzaddikim will not compare themselves to Tzaddikim! They are too humble for that! – but I *will* liken him in deed, if not by madreiga in that he is attempting to take something that is unholy or that which we may normally consider unsuitable for observant/religious Jews, and breathing some holiness and hope into it.

      It may come as a surprise to some that some chassidishe niggunim are based on secular melodies. And there are plenty of “variations” that have been around for twenty years or more by famous, yiddishe singers such as Mordechai Ben Dovid, Avrohomm Friend and others of their ilk and reputation who have used if not full tunes then portions of tunes and melodies that have basis in secular music.

      But that aside, what I think many people fail to realize, is that while they are pointing fingers, condemning others or clucking their tongues at the “unorthodox approach” or questioning the reasoning behind – the very idea – that a frum Jew would try to convert secular music to some semblance of music acceptable to the frum public, there are a great many Jews in the world today who DO listen to secular music regularly – and enjoy it. As a result, there is a *much* greater likelihood that if they were to hear songs that are familiar to them (in English – not everyone speaks or understands Hebrew or Yiddish), it will be that much more effective in bringing them closer to the fold or strengthening their already existing levels of committment to Hashem, the Torah and/or Avodah in general.

      I would also like to say in particular to the person who stated that due to “conversion”, he or she has grown to like secular music – and to those people who. because of this danger and problem. might blame Mr. Veroba and others like him in the music “conversion” business:

      It all comes down to your own choices. Yes, this type of music may open a door to temptation, but doors work both ways and you alone are responsible for your decisions.

      In closing, I would like to wish those who may be feeling the tempation the strength to withstand it and remain strong and steadfast.

      And to Mr. Veroba I wish much Hatzlocha in this project and may his efforts succeed in bringing more Jews closer to Avodas Hashem.

    11. Do you people realize how much of the “chassidishe” music you listen to is based on melodies from the secular world? I have known Veroba for many years and I know many of the people he works with. This music is not really produced for the chassidishe world. It is produced for the modern world (who are not interested in MBD or Dedi). M.O. kids are really into this kind of stuff. Key kiruv groups like NCSY and JEP make this music part of their programs. This kind of music does far more good than harm, and his motivation to bring people closer to H” is 100% pure.

      Lenny Solomon (Shlock Rock) has been doing things like this for 20+ years and MBD has no problems sharing the stage with him. Why would should anyone reject this kind of music? Because it is in English? For many MO, that makes it even more meaningful for them.

    12. For those of you out there who live in the “real world”, and its been touched on previously, we all have “tayvos” and yes we have “bechira” as to what we listen to.
      Last I checked, listening to any one of Gershon’s “Variations” arrangements has NOT reported anyone going off the derech or doing things that are not for a ben/bat torah.
      My family has known Gershon for several decades, and what he does is unique no doubt. He has an artistry some of you wish you could attain, and you are exhibiting signs of “kanaus” (jealousy) which is a very bad character trait for Jews to have.
      You should all think of what you said here. As someone who knows Gershon personally, I think you should definitely not judge him simply because you feel he is “out of line” for wanting to brind something other than “heimishe” music to the masses.
      There are soo many new artists on the Jewish Music scene now, and they are all just trying to make it out there in this troubled econonomy but few will have the impact, artistry and the charisma that Gershon Veroba has.

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