For almost two years now, L.A. based singer/songwriter Shelley Fisher, has been charming audiences from Manhattan to Memphis to Santa Monica with her one woman autobiographical musical, The Hebrew Hillbilly. And proving that it's never too late to craft a new song in an established hit show, Fisher and legendary pop songwriter Ken Hirsch (Anita Baker, Barbra Streisand) have cowritten the poignant, We Remember, a stirring tribute to her Jewish ancestry -- and the musical's new emotional summit.
We Remember by Shelley Fisher and Ken Hirsch (a montage of Jewish art/artists):
We Remember reminds us, that regardless of religion, we are fundamentally similar. As the Jewish High Holidays have returned, I thought what better time to chat with the Hebrew Hillbilly herself.
Xaque Gruber: You are primarily known as a blues/rock singer. What inspired you to write We Remember?
Shelley Fisher: As with most of Kenny Hirsch and my songs, the process is spontaneous and organic. At a rehearsal, he began playing some chords that struck a chord in my soul. I started singing "We Remember Him, We Remember Her, they live in our hearts just the way they were." He asked what I was singing, I replied our legacy song for our people and all the generations of Jewish people who've gone on. That was the beginning and at our next meeting Kenny played the finished product. It moved me to tears.
XG: How does your Jewish faith inform your philosophy about life?
SF: Though I grew up as part of a very small minority in Memphis, Tennessee, our Jewish community was like family. We even called the grown-ups Aunt and Uncle. Many of them were Eastern European Immigrants who fled persecution and The Holocaust with little more than pride and determination to forge a new life. We all looked out for each other which made me feel safe, and connected. I felt deep respect for these survivors who fought the good fight for freedom and equality not only for themselves but for all oppressed people.
XG: Tell me about your recent pilgrimage to Israel.
SF: Israel is awe inspiring and eye opening . A small country built by the blood, sweat and tears of Holocaust survivors with nowhere to go. It is magnificent from sea to shining sea: from bustling Tel Aviv on the Mediterranean to exquisite Eilat on The Red Sea. I felt an immediate sense of belonging praying at the ancient Western Wall in majestic Jerusalem. I am fortunate to have family in Israel including Former Prime Minister and Defense Minister, Ehud Barak, who listened to We Remember and was so touched that he suggested it would be the ideal Memorial Song of Israel.
XG: You're now performing We Remember towards the end of The Hebrew Hillbilly - what does performing it feel like for you?
SF: The song feels like a prayer that unites the audience of all faiths with a profound feeling of sadness and joy. It flows naturally out of the show's story, and creates a sort of healing, community and completion. The Hebrew Hillbilly is universal in its celebration of diversity, dreams and determination to never give up, and my hope is that our audiences will be entertained and inspired to dream just a little bit higher.
The next performances of The Hebrew Hillbilly are Thursday, October 9 and Saturday, November 22 at The Santa Monica Playhouse. Check out: www.hebrewhillbilly.com for more information.