Peter HimmelmanMusic Features Peter Himmelman
With rapier wit and a unique gift for composing sincere songs of absolutes, marital love and the “beyond reckoning” blessings of children, Peter Himmelman—through 17 years of writing and recording—has unfolded a dream bigger than he ever imagined. On his latest CD, Unstoppable Forces, he continues to find humor in melancholy and purpose in life’s trivial pursuits.
“I write about where my mind’s at,” says Himmelman. “Unstoppable Forces has a hopeful quality to it.”
While expressions of faith have become commonplace in popular music, Peter expresses his Jewish faith in non-dogmatic terms. “If anything, the axiom is to know that there is this dichotomy—a struggle going on—and it’s not metaphoric. It’s the most real thing in the world. You’re in a struggle, between spirituality and materiality, and you always write about what you’re dealing with.”
Longtime Himmelman fans can attest to his quick, satirical humor, especially on stage. “One of my skills is that I have this cognizance of this idea that I’m a spirit trapped in a meat sack. I have a sense of the duality more often than I used, too, or than others do. It comes out in humor, even though my album isn’t humorous. But the shows are funny [because of] that disparity; that dark and light, that makes for humor.
“My sister died in a car accident this year. Even in that, jokes were on the tip of my tongue. It wasn’t that I was so grief stricken that I was out of my mind.” Himmelman recalls, “It’s easy to contrast something that’s meaningful with something we take for granted as meaningful on a day-to-day level. You really take it and juxtapose that to the finality of mortality. If you do it well it is an excellent fodder for humor—the juxtapositions.
“So I don’t really think like this all the time, just when a baby is born when your sister dies. But then you have to ask yourself, ‘when a baby is born and your sister dies, are those axioms that present themselves, are they real? Or is the mundane life real?”
Himmelman doesn’t lose his listener in overwhelming somberness or grief. Instead, he uses his gift to make light of, and shine light on, questions often left undiscussed and unchallenged.