Gershon Kingsley

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Gershon Kingsley
Birth nameGötz Gustav Ksinski
Born(1922-10-28)October 28, 1922
Bochum, Weimar Republic
DiedDecember 10, 2019(2019-12-10) (aged 97)
Manhattan, New York, U.S.
GenresElectronic, classical, pop, sacred, crossover
Occupation(s)Composer, arranger, keyboardist, conductor
InstrumentsSynthesizer, piano
Years active1954–2019
Associated actsPerrey and Kingsley, First Moog Quartet
WebsiteOfficial website Edit this at Wikidata

Gershon Kingsley (born Götz Gustav Ksinski; October 28, 1922 – December 10, 2019) was a German-American composer,[1] a pioneer of electronic music and the Moog synthesizer, a partner in the electronic music duo Perrey and Kingsley, founder of the First Moog Quartet, and writer of rock-inspired compositions for Jewish religious ceremonies.[2] Kingsley is most famous for his 1969 influential electronic instrumental composition "Popcorn".[1]

Kingsley conducted and arranged many Broadway musicals,[3] and composed for film, television shows[4] and commercials.[5] His compositions were eclectic and vary between avant-garde and pop styles. Kingsley also composed classical chamber works, and his opera Raoul was premiered in Bremen, Germany in 2008.[6] His work was recognized with a Tony Award nomination for Best Conductor and Musical Director,[7] two Clio Awards for his work in advertising music, and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Bob Moog Foundation.[8] Kingsley died on December 10, 2019 at the age of 97 in Manhattan, New York.[9][10]


Early life[edit]

Kingsley was born Götz Gustav Ksinski in 1922 in Bochum, Weimar Republic, the son of Marie Christina, a homemaker, and Max Ksinski, a carpet dealer and pianist. His father was born Jewish and his mother, originally Catholic, converted to Judaism.[10][11] He grew up in Berlin where his parents ran a large carpet shop. They had originally met in Essen, when his father, returning from Berlin on a business trip, had dropped in to a wine bar managed by two sisters, one of whom soon became Kingsley's mother. The elder Ksinski had spent the evening playing the piano in the bar, after which romance quickly blossomed.[12]

In 1938, while his parents and brother made their way to Cuba and, ultimately, the United States, Kingsley traveled 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[12]

As his father was Jewish, he fled Nazi Germany in 1938 to settle in Palestine-Land of Israel where the 15-year-old, self-taught musician began his career in music.[12] He escaped Germany a few days before Kristallnacht and joined kibbutz Ein Harod, Mandatory Palestine, 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,[12] where Kingsley met up with them eight years later.[1] After World War II, Kingsley emigrated to America where he became a pit conductor for Broadway musical shows after graduating from the Los Angeles Conservatory of Music.

Musical career[edit]

Kingsley's musical career took off with the release of The In Sound from Way Out! in 1966, recorded with Jean-Jacques Perrey. The duet Perrey and Kingsley released their next album in 1967 titled, Kaleidoscopic Vibrations: Electronic Pop Music From Way Out, and subsequently went their separate ways. Embarking upon a solo career, Kingsley, in 1969, released on Audio Fidelity Records, the album 'Music to Moog By', a Moog album consisting mainly of cover songs like: Scarborough Fair, an English ballad, Für Elise by Beethoven (renamed «For Alice Beethoven»), Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star, an English lullaby, and finally Nowhere Man and Paperback Writer, both written by Beatles John Lennon and Paul McCartney. But there also was original material, like: "Hey, Hey" (composed with Janice Eileen Davies), which was sampled by RJD2 for the song "The Horror" or his best known composition, Popcorn, which became his "signature song", other original tracks from the album include composed by Kingsley: "Sheila", "The First Step" (a track that was added in some editions before Popcorn), "Sunset Sound", "Trumansburg Whistle"

His next musical effort was with a band called First Moog Quartet in 1970: As the result of a request by famous impresario Sol Hurok to hear the Moog synthesizer's capabilities demonstrated live. Other group members included Howard Salat, Stan Free, Eric W. Knight, and Ken Bichel. On January 30, 1970, the group became the first to ever play electronic music in Carnegie Hall. With Robert Moog present, they were accompanied by several other musicians and four singers.[13] While reactions were mixed,[14] immediate results included a university tour, and some interesting collaborative works with the Boston Pops Orchestra.

They only recorded one 1970 album entitled First Moog Quartet, on Audio Fidelity Records, which consisted 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 then moved beyond the Moog, and later pioneered the use of the earliest Fairlight and Synclavier digital synthesizers.[citation needed] And at least one 45 rpm single. Arthur Fiedler asked Kingsley to write a Concerto for Moog; the quartet performed the work, scored for synthesizer quartet and symphony orchestra, with the Boston Pops in 1971.[15]

Baroque Hoedown & The Savers[edit]

Gershon Kingsley with Perrey is also credited with composing the song "Baroque Hoedown", released in their 1967 album, used by Walt Disney Productions for the Main Street Electrical Parade at its theme parks; and the song "The Savers", best known as the theme for the game show The Joker's Wild from 1972 to 1975 would go on to fame in 1968 as the Clio Award-winning music for a television ad for No-Cal diet drinks.[16][17] 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.[18]


Many artists have covered his song "Popcorn", including; Hot Butter, The Popcorn Makers, Anarchic System, La Strana Società, Los Pekenikes (1972), Jiri Korn, Klaus Wunderlich (1973), Vyacheslav Mescherin's Orchestra (1979), Magic Men (1983), M&H Band (1988), Slotmachine & Gemini 7, Aphex Twin (1992), Gigi D'Agostino (1994), The Boomtang Boys (1999), Marsheaux (2003), Crazy Frog, Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass, Messer Chups (2005), Muse, The Muppets (2010), Red Axes (2019) and others.

The song was used in the Soviet animated series Nu, pogodi!.[19] the Japanese release of Pengo used an 8-bit interpretation of this Gershon Kingsley track.[20] in early 2019, the year Gershon Kingsley died, the experimental composer Blanck Mass chose "Popcorn" as one of the 10 most influential compositions of his career.[19] Also particularly interesting is the cover version of the Italian pop group La Strana Società from 1972, whose ensemble back then included Umberto Tozzi, who was still unknown at the time, but which would later achieve world fame with hits such as "Gloria",[21] "Tu" and "Ti Amo".


  • 1960: Love and Laughter (with Davey Karr & Betty Walker)
  • 1962: Helen Jacobson Presents Fly Blackbird Original Cast Album (with Clarence Bernard Jackson)
  • 1963: Shoshana! (as conductor)
  • 1964: Mozart After Hours (as conductor, arranger, harpsichordist) (with Maureen Forrester & Wiener Akademie Kammerchor)
  • 1964: Jan Peerce on 2nd Avenue (as conductor, arranger)
  • 1965: Fleury — The Isles of Greece (as arranger, conductor)
  • 1966: The In Sound from Way Out! (with Perrey)
  • 1966: New Songs of the Auvergne — Netania Davrath (as orchestrator)
  • 1966: Jan Peerce — Art of the Cantor (as conductor, arranger)
  • 1967: Kaleidoscopic Vibrations: Electronic Pop Music from Way Out (with Perrey)
  • 1968: Shabbat '68
  • 1968: The New Exciting Voice of Sol Zimel — Favorite Jewish Melodies (as arranger, conductor)
  • 1969: Jan Peerce Neapolitan Serenade
  • 1969: Music to Moog By
  • 1970: First Moog Quartet
  • 1970: Gershwin (Alive & Well & Underground)
  • 1971: Greta Keller Sings Love Is A Daydream And Other Songs By Yulya
  • 1971: Kaleidoscopic Vibrations: Spotlight on the Moog (re-release of 1967 Kaleidoscopic Vibrations album under other name)
  • 1972: Popcorn (with his band First Moog Quartet)
  • 1974: The 5th Cup Featuring Theodore Bikel
  • 1980: Julia Migenes Latin Lady (as producer, conductor, arranger)
  • 1982: Julia Migenes-Johnson Sings Gershwin (as conductor, arranger)
  • 1986: Much Silence
  • 1987: Das Schönste Von Julia Migenes
  • 1989: Cruisers 1.0
  • 1990: Anima
  • 1991: The Essential Perrey and Kingsley
  • 2005: Voices from the Shadow
  • 2006: God Is a Moog
  • 2007: Vanguard Visionaries: Perrey and Kingsley


Broadway productions[edit]

  • The Entertainer musical director (February 12, 1958 – May 10, 1958)
  • La Plume de Ma Tante musical director (November 11, 1958 – December 17, 1960)
  • Vintage '60 arranger, musical director (September 12, 1960 – September 17, 1960)
  • Josephine Baker musical director (February 4, 1964 – February 16, 1964)
  • Cafe Crown vocal arranger, musical director (April 17, 1964 – April 18, 1964)
  • I'm Solomon vocal arranger, musical director (April 23, 1968 – April 27, 1968)

Off-Broadway productions[edit]

  • Ernest in Love arranger (opened May 4, 1960)
  • Fly Blackbird! arranger, musical director (opened February 2, 1962)
  • King of the Whole Damn World arranger (opened April 14, 1962)
  • Put it in Writing arranger, pianist (opened May 13, 1963)
  • The Cradle Will Rock musical director, Clerk (opened November 8, 1964)
  • Hotel Passionato orchestrator, musical director (opened October 22, 1965)
  • Great Scot! additional musical arrangements, musical director (opened November 10, 1965)
  • Hooray! It's a Glorious Day ... and all that orchestrator (opened March 3, 1966)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Graham, Dave (April 19, 2010). "Pop pioneer hails Germany despite Holocaust misery". Reuters. Retrieved March 24, 2017.
  2. ^ Caramanica, Jon (August 21, 2005). "Funny, It Doesn't Sound Jewish – New York Times". The New York Times. Retrieved October 18, 2011.
  3. ^ The Broadway League. "The official source for Broadway Information". IBDB. Retrieved October 18, 2011.
  4. ^ "Gershon Kingsley". IMDb.
  5. ^ "Film Video TV". Archived from the original on August 21, 2014. Retrieved October 18, 2011.
  6. ^ "Raoul". May 9, 2008. Retrieved October 18, 2011.
  7. ^ "Tony Awards Database 1959". Retrieved December 30, 2019.
  8. ^ Rodrigues, J. "Moog Music Announces "The Bob" Award Winners". WeImprovise!. Retrieved December 30, 2019.
  9. ^ Newman, Melinda. "Gershon Kingsley, Moog Synthesizer Pioneer, Dies at 97". Billboard. Retrieved December 15, 2019.
  10. ^ a b Pareles, Jon (December 15, 2019). "Gershon Kingsley, Master of Electronic Sounds, Dies at 97". The New York Times. Retrieved December 28, 2019.
  11. ^ "Gershon Kingsley".
  12. ^ a b c d Tobias Feld (January 3, 2014). "Ein Revolutionär der Musikgeschichte ... Gustav Ksinski komponierte den ersten Welthit des Elektro-Pop". Deutschlandradio Köln (Deutschlandfunk Kultur). Retrieved December 24, 2017.
  13. ^ Kingsley Sound. Site includes some multimedia archives.
  14. ^ "REVIEWS OF THE FIRST MOOG QUARTET AT CARNEGIE HALL JANUARY 30, 1970". Kingsley Sound. Archived from the original on June 13, 2002. Retrieved June 28, 2018.
  15. ^ Space Age Pop, Gershon Kingsley.
  16. ^ "The Joker's Wild". Retrieved February 19, 2021.
  17. ^ "Gershon Kingsley". Retrieved February 19, 2021.
  18. ^ Northrop, Daphne. "GBH's Iconic "Sting" Gets A Facelift". WGBH. Retrieved November 6, 2020.
  19. ^ a b Ben Jolley (December 16, 2019). "Synth pioneer and maker of "Popcorn", Gershon Kingsley, dies age 97". UK. djmag. p. Retrieved January 29, 2021.
  20. ^ "Las conversiones de Pengo" [Pengo conversions]. November 25, 2019: Retrieved January 29, 2021. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  21. ^ Video of Tozzi singing his original "Gloria" on YouTube
  22. ^ "Tags: Perrey And Kingsley | Dangerous Minds". Retrieved February 7, 2021.

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