Moog synthesizer pioneer Gershon Kingsley dead at 97
I was sad to read on The Quietus today that Moog pioneer Gershon Kingsley—best known for composing the worldwide novelty smash “Popcorn”—died in his Manhattan apartment on December 10th. He was 97 years old.
One half of Perrey and Kingsley with Jean-Jacques Perrey, their two best-selling albums of the mid-60s, The In Sound from Way Out and Kaleidoscopic Vibrations introduced the sound of electronic music to the masses. Their “Baroque Hoedown” provided the music for Disneyland’s “Main Street Electrical Parade” attraction (a fact actually unknown to Perrey until 1980). Their “Electronic Can-Can” became the theme music for the Wonderamachildren’s program of the early 1970s and the popular 70s game show The Joker’s Wild used their track “The Savers” as its instantly recognizable title tune. (On his own, Kingsley would compose the famous station ident music for WGBH, the PBS station in Boston which was well-known to 70s viewers of Zoom and The French Chef.)
Gershon Kingsley, left, and Jean-Jacques Perrey
Kingsley conducted several Broadway musicals and composed for film, including 1972’s proto-slasher Silent Night, Bloody Night and the Oliver Stone co-produced softcore crime drama Sugar Cookies the following year. He also worked on TV commercials and was the winner of two Clio awards.
Although Kingsley’s compositions were wildly eclectic and varied from poppy novelty songs to funky weirdness, he also produced religious music, but with his own twist. His “Shabbat for Today” was an attempt to fuse traditional Jewish religious music with a more contemporary avant-garde sound, to draw in younger people to temple. The “Shabbat” utilized, of course, the then-futuristic electronic instrument Kingsley helped make famous, the Moog Synthesizer. A televised excerpt from “Shabbat for Today” was broadcast on PBS in 1971, conducted by the composer, and featuring cantor Ephraim Biran, Rabbi Gunter Hirschberg, narrator Alfred Drake and Kenneth Bichel on the Moog Modular.
In 1999, I was invited by Mr. Kingsley to hear his “Shabbat for Today” performed in a synagogue in Manhattan and it was a wonderful experience. I am pretty sure that recital was held in the same synagogue seen in the video below, Temple Rodeph Shalom, located on the Upper West Side. A compilation of Kingsley’s religious compositions, God is a Moog: The Electronic Prayers of Gershon Kingsley was released in 2006.
There are several Perrey & Kingsley numbers and two lesser known pieces by Kingsley on a long out of print CD I compiled for Sony titled Best Of Moog: Electronic Pop Hits From The 60’s & 70’s
If you like “Shaft,” you’ll love “Shank”?
“Hey, Hey” sounds like a rejected James Bond theme from 1967, does it not?