MP3 Gershon Veroba - Turn It Around
Jewish music crafted for a diverse audience; original Hebrew/Chassidic music in varied styles, along with original and energetic English songs of the human condition. Accompanied with full instrumentation by New York''s Neshoma Orchestra.
12 MP3 Songs
WORLD: Judaica, WORLD: World Fusion
"Jewish Music''s High-Performance Performer..."
Reprinted with permission from an article in
Chicago''s Jewish Image Magazine
His most enamored fans swear he sounds just like Billy Joel or Elton John; others simply enjoy his own original vocal styles blending Chassidic with American pop, Israeli with country, Middle-Eastern with rock, and onward. But whomever he''s singing to, Gershon Veroba keeps them asking for him by name.
Though playing and performing since he was a young boy, the dark-haired, bearded, Veroba got his real break in the music business 20 years ago, when he was sent to South Africa on a Yeshiva University outreach program, and he hasn''t stopped since. His first solo album, "Man to Man," was released in 1982, his most recent, "Turn it Around," in 1998. In between he''s recorded four other solo albums, about 20 more with various artists, shared the concert stage with virtually every star in Jewish music plus many American celebrities as well and frequently appears as a featured performer at weddings and bar-mitzvahs.
"My career has been something of a goulash," says Veroba jokingly, in the Long Island offices of Neshoma Orchestras, the band he is now aligned with for the wedding/bar mitzvah circuit. He''s performed with every name in the industry, from Shlomo Carlebach to Mordechai Ben David, Avraham Fried, from the Diaspora Yeshiva band to Andy Statman, Mike Burstein, Bruce Adler, Jackie Mason and Steve Allen.
He''s had a solo career and freelanced with different bands but no matter the venue, he says "I try to inspire people to the point where they actually appreciate it and where they actually learn something by hearing me. I''m glad when I see someone enjoying what I''m doing enough to ask me to do it again."
According to Elly Zomick, co-owner of Neshoma, asking for Gershon is a commonplace request. "I''ve known him since the ''70s," he said, "and he is an incredibly gifted and talented performer. As we say in the business, his ears are tremendous -- whether he''s singing, playing or composing. He''s just a natural."
"When people hear him sing Billy Joel they really think he sounds like Billy Joel. There aren''t that many guys who can sing so many different styles as well as he does. He does it all? Hebrew, Motown, Chassidic, Pop? and no matter what it is, it''s great."
It''s his varied background that contributes to Veroba''s eclectic style. "My influences were predominantly American, plus a cupful of Carlebach and a pinch of Pirchei." His first major album appearance took place in 1981 as co-composer and lead singer with the group, "Judaea," produced by Yerachmiel Begun. This album, due for re-release on CD this year, was highly successful, though way ahead of its time as a collective work of American Pop-inspired songs targeting the young Orthodox market.
In 1982, His first solo album, "Man To Man," with all vocals and instruments performed entirely by Gershon, was sung in Safardit, catering to a more secular crowd. His second, "Sasson V''simcha," released in 1988, addressed the more religious listeners. "I was known as a modern frum guy, but was playing for the more chasiddish and yeshivish crowds," he said. "So I touched different audiences with my albums and my shows."
Next came "Then & Now" in 1993, a retrospective of the first two albums and his hits from appearances on others. Soon, the albums "Variations 1 & 2" gave him the opportunity to finally show off his abilities as a pop vocalist and celebrity impressionist. Aimed at an older audience, Veroba (and some other writers) took mainstream hit songs and rewrote them with Jewish themes. Starring with singer Harold Fruchter, he performed the songs and voices of Barry Manilow, Billy Joel, Neil Diamond, Simon and Garfunkel and others.
Said Klezmer star Andy Statman, who''s known and played with Veroba: "He''s a walking American cultural library of music from the ''50s until now. He''s incredibly talented and really cares about music. Crowds just love him and I''ve become a big fan of his."
And Andy''s not alone. This opinion seems to have spread. Case in point, the audiences at the Homowack, the world''s largest Glatt-kosher shomer-shabbos resort hotel. "Our audiences can be brutal," says Sam (Shloimie) Ash, the hotel''s Minister of Entertainment. "They pride themselves on walking out of a show, but they love Gershon. He''s a refreshing departure from the guys who just take the mike and ''kvetch''. He''s a performer with real style. He''s more than a singer, he''s an entertainer who really knows how to connect with the room."
Veroba grew up in suburban Larchmont, NY, with music in the home. His mother was an opera singer, a voice teacher and still serves as his vocal coach; his father, Chazzan Abraham Veroba, zt"l, a direct student of Chazzan Yoselle Rosenblatt, passed away on Gershon''s birthday, May 10th, 1996, and was the inspiration for the dedication of his latest album, "Turn It Around."
Two of the songs on the album written by Gershon were written for his father, including the title track, which offers advice through life''s ups and downs. "Etz Chaim" (transl. "Tree of Life") expresses not only his feelings for his father and his musical inspiration but, as the album''s dedication reads, "to convey my eternal love for him, his unshakeable faith in his family and G-d, and the sense of loss I feel in his absence... a void I carry proudly."
Gershon and his family live in Far Rockaway, NY. Now promoting "Turn It Around," he performs in concerts all over the country and is planning performances in England and Israel as well. He has no problem going after every audience, from Chassidic to mainstream America. This, he says, is not confusing. "The English songs I do are applicable to everyone. They allude to people''s spiritual goals without having to spell out what those goals are."
Explaining the theme of the new album he says: "There are three different kinds of commandments- those from Man to God, Man to Man, and Man to himself. The most important kind is from Man to Man (i.e., his first album), ''bein adam lechavero.'' On ''Turn It Around'' I tried to attract as large an audience as possible with that message, and it works because there''s something for just about everyone. My English songs don''t smack of blatant religion but rather with how people treat each other."
So, given his varied repertoire, is there a name one can put to his style?
Says Veroba: "Some people call it ''cross-over'' because its range goes beyond the boundaries of lifestyles, beliefs and religious intentions. Others call it ''pop'' because of its appeal. I can only call it music. My dream is to reach people in a way they can understand while still encouraging them to pursue their level or brand of faith."
And that is the secret to Veroba''s success on stage. His appeal to the masses stems from his unique ability to customize his show to each audience, often improvising on the spot. Whether children, teens or adults, Veroba has something to please everyone. "It''s as if you''ve got four different entertainers in one show," exclaims a delighted event coordinator. "He not only came with a fantastic repertoire but the audience really got into his show and at the end started requesting all sorts of songs. Gershon, with his ability to do anything, jumped right in. He played for an extra half hour and stopped only because they were going to close the hall."
Rabbi A.Y. Weinberg, Regional Director of N.C.S.Y. has known Gershon since he used to perform for Chicago regional events here and on both coasts. Rabbi Weinberg constantly went through great pains in making special arrangements to book Gershon''s appearances, despite his busy weekend schedules in New York.
"In my seventeen years of experience I can say that there''s nothing like Gershon Veroba. I remember one convention years ago where Gershon suggested I sit back so he could take over leading the kids. In no time he had those kids going wild! It was one of the most amazing things I had ever heard or seen."
-- Jodi Dubow