135: Peter Himmelman
Peter Himmelman had momentum. Before he had a decades long career, videos on MTV (back when there were videos on MTV), Grammy and Emmy nominations, Parents Choice Awards, critical acclaim, a family, TV and movie scores… before any of that, he had momentum. Peter came out swinging, with something prove and something to offer. He was motivated in part by what he describes here as a “reigning sense of isolation”.
He grew up in a Minneapolis suburb and came of age in the 70’s at a time when funk and punk were both beginning to flourish and “children were still allowed to be feral”. By the time he graduated from high school, there was no question to him or his family that he was going to be some kind of a musician. He started hanging out in the predominantly black North Side area of Minneapolis, tagging along with soul singer Alexander O’Neal, and doing his best imitation of blues musician Luther Allison. He tells me “maybe learning is not really possible without modeling - through that modeling you gain some mastery, and if you have courage to continue you might find something original.”
Peter started playing music with a group of friends in high school, some of whom he still plays with today. He convinced them not to go to college and instead to focus on their band Sussman Lawrence, a new wave band with an absurdist lyrical bent. He developed an outrageous stage persona that, as one former band mate described, “made Mick Jagger look like Pat Boone.” He was drawn to the stage, compelled to create, and naturally comfortable in the spotlight.
When his father died, Peter was only in his early 20s. That loss reoriented his life and his work. He became more observant in his Judaism, he got married (he and his wife, Maria Dylan - daughter of Bob Dylan - have been married for over 30 years), he started writing more emotionally honest songs. Today, some 40 years after he got started, Peter Tells me his is “letting go of the need for the love of strangers.”
In our conversation, Peter tells me about finding “beauty in tragedy”, confronting “the harsh architecture of now”, and he unpacks questions of ergonomics, economics, loss, discovery, desire, faith, fearlessness, impermanence, songwriting, real estate, college tuition, doing meaningful work, and performing naked… from the sacred to the profane, it’s all here.