Gershon Kingsley (born Götz Gustav Ksinski; October 28, 1922) is a contemporary German-American composer, a pioneer of electronic music and the Moog synthesizer, founder of the First Moog Quartet, a partner in the electronic music duo Perrey and Kingsley, and writer of rock-inspired compositions for Jewish religious ceremonies.
Kingsley conducted and arranged many Broadway musicals, and composes for film and for television shows and commercials. Kingsley also composes classical chamber works and his most recent opera, Raoul, was premiered in Bremen, Germany in 2008. His compositions are eclectic and vary between avant-garde and pop styles. Kingsley is most famous for his influential electronic instrumental composition "Popcorn". His work garnered recognition with a Tony Award nomination for Best Conductor and Musical Director, two Clio Awards for his work in advertising, and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Bob Moog Foundation.
Gershon Kingsley was born Götz Gustav Ksinski in Bochum, Germany, in 1922, to a Jewish father and a Catholic mother. He grew up in Berlin where his parents ran a large carpet shop. They had originally met in Essen, when Gustav Ksinski, visiting from Berlin on a business trip, had dropped in to a wine bar managed by two sisters, one of whom soon became Kinglsey's mother. The elder Ksinski had spent the evening playing the piano in the bar, after which romance quickly blossomed.
In 1938, while his parents and brother made their way to Cuba and, ultimately, the USA, Kingsley travelled via Genoa to Palestine and joined a kibbutz:
We were all very happy in the kibbutz. We were in Palestine. It was such a great experience to be sort of in our own country ("... quasi in unserem eigenen Land zu sein"). In the mornings we worked in the fields, and in the afternoons we attended classes on farming. Half of us were boys, the other half girls. We talked, we danced, we were in love: we were free and the Nazis were far away. It was like an oasis. It was such a wonderful wonderful wonderful time.
—Gershon Kingsley, quoted in 2014 by Tobias Feld
Kingsley became a member of a Zionist youth movement and at the age of 15 left Germany in 1938, a few days before Kristallnacht and joined kibbutz Ein Harod, Israel, while his parents stayed behind at that time. At the kibbutz he taught himself to play the piano. He joined the Hagana Jewish Settlement Police (Notrim) and also played jazz in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. He studied at the Jerusalem conservatory of music.
His parents and brother had escaped to Cuba from where, eventually, they succeeded in obtaining visas for the United States, where Kingsley met up with them eight years later.
His career as a pop musician took off with the release of The In Sound from Way Out!, which he recorded with Jean-Jacques Perrey. The Perrey-Kingsley duo went on to record Kaleidoscopic Vibrations: Electronic Pop Music from Way Out and subsequently went their separate ways. Kingsley then recorded Music To Moog By, a classic Moog album consisting mainly of cover songs, originally by The Beatles, Beethoven, and Simon and Garfunkel. His next effort, titled First Moog Quartet, is a compilation of live recordings from his nationwide tour featuring four Moog synthesizers. Some of these compositions are more experimental, featuring spoken word and beat poetry backed by synthetic noises and tones. Kingsley moved beyond the Moog, and later pioneered the use of the earliest Fairlight and Synclavier digital synthesizers.
Many artists have covered "Popcorn", including Hot Butter, Jean Michel Jarre, Aphex Twin, Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass, Marsheaux, Muse, Crazy Frog and The Muppets. The composition was used in Soviet animated series Nu, pogodi!
Other notable works
Kingsley and Perrey are credited with composing "Baroque Hoedown", used by Walt Disney Productions for the Main Street Electrical Parade at its theme parks; and "The Savers", best known as the theme for the game show The Joker's Wild. He also wrote the logo sting (animated logo accompanied with music) for WGBH-TV in Boston that appears throughout the United States on PBS programming produced by the station.
- 1966 The In Sound from Way Out!
- 1967 Kaleidoscopic Vibrations: Electronic Pop Music from Way Out
- 1969 Music to Moog By
- 1970 First Moog Quartet
- 1970 Switched-On Gershwin
- 1971 Kaleidoscopic Vibrations: Spotlight on the Moog (Re-release of 1967 Kaleidoscopic Vibrations album under a new name)
- 1991 The Essential Perrey and Kingsley
- 2005 Voices from the Shadow
- 2006 God Is a Moog
- 2007 Vanguard Visionaries: Perrey and Kingsley
- 2009 Silent Night, Bloody Night (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
- 1969 Sam's Song
- 1970 The Dreamer (Ha-Timhoni)
- 1972 Silent Night, Bloody Night
- 1973 Sugar Cookies