The Arty Semite

Growing Up Jewish in Rock's Golden Age

By Michael Kaminer

  • Print
  • Share Share

At age 19, Graham Gouldman scored his first U.K. top-10 hit with “For Your Love,” the ageless tune first recorded by the Yardbirds. He went on to write smash songs for the likes of Herman’s Hermits, Jeff Beck, and the Hollies before forming the band 10cc — a hit factory in itself — in 1972.

This month, Gouldman added another distinction to a stellar resume. He’s one of four tunesmiths who’ll get inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame at a ceremony this June in New York. The Kinks’ Ray Davies, “Midnight Train to Georgia” writer Jim Weatherly, and Elvis Presley collaborator Mark James will also be honored.

Born in Manchester, England, Gouldman started playing guitar at age 11 after a cousin returned from Spain with a cheap acoustic guitar. “As soon as I held it, I was gone,” his bio says. Gouldman left school “as soon as was legally possible,” joining a band called the Whirlwinds. After a stint with another band, the Mockingbirds, music manager Harvey Lisberg hired him to write songs for one of the biggest acts to break out of Manchester — Herman’s Hermits.

These days, Gouldman continues to tour tirelessly with 10cc; in 2012, he released “Love and Work” (Rosala Records), a solo album. The Forward caught up with Gouldman by email.

Michael Kaminer: What does the Songwriters’ Hall of Fame honor mean to you?

Graham Gouldman: It’s the recognition of a lifetime’s work, but I haven’t finished working yet. Also it is very special to be honoured by your peers.

What was it like for a Jewish kid growing up in Manchester in the 1950s and ‘60s?

The late ‘50s and early ‘60s were such a wonderful time for a teenager to be growing up. The music from that era still has a major influence on me. The local Jewish club let our band rehearse in one of its rooms and in exchange we’d play at their dances for free.

Why do you think Manchester’s been such a fertile place for popular music?

Manchester has always been a great place for all the arts. It’s a university city so there have always been lots of venues for bands to play in.

“Rock musician” isn’t what some Jewish parents hope their kids will pursue as a career. What did your family think once you made it clear music would become your life and work?

I was always supported and encouraged by my parents, also I was so obsessed by music from an early age that my school work suffered so there wasn’t any chance of me getting a “real job.”

There’s such a brilliant lineage of Jewish songwriters and performers in popular music. Do you feel a part of a tradition? What’s the thread?

I do feel it and it may be to do with being an outsider and wanting to make your mark. I, like many other Jewish songwriters, were very influenced by the melodies heard in synagogue as a kid.

Your bio calls the ‘60s “the most exciting time in the history of Western music.” But today seems like a pretty exciting time, too. Why do you think that was the decade to end all?

Everything was fresh in the sixties and there was a post-war cultural revolution that we were all a part of.

Which songwriters influenced you? And which songwriters do you admire who are working today?

I was influenced by The Beatles, Paul Simon, Jim Webb, Motown and so many others. Of more recent writers I love Ron Sexsmith.

Is it ever tempting, if you hear one of your songs playing in a store or restaurant, to turn to someone next to you and say, “By the way, I wrote that”? Or “God, I always hated that version”?

I did it once and got a look of disbelief, I never did it again.

You released “Love and Work,” a solo album, in 2012. How is it different from your music before it?

At its heart I don’t think my music has changed that much. I want the listener to feel what I feel.

What’s coming up in 2014? Will you continue touring? Can we expect another solo release?

I will continue touring with 10cc and “Heart Full of Songs” which is an acoustic show I do with three other musicians featuring many songs I have written over the years.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Music, Interviews, Graham Gouldman

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight": http://jd.fo/f4Q1Q
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • According to Israeli professor Mordechai Kedar, “the only thing that can deter terrorists, like those who kidnapped the children and killed them, is the knowledge that their sister or their mother will be raped."
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.