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 contemporary 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]

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, 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]

Musical career[edit]

His career as a pop musician took off with the release of The In Sound from Way Out! album in 1966, which he recorded with Jean-Jacques Perrey. The Perrey and Kingsley duo went on to record Kaleidoscopic Vibrations: Electronic Pop Music from Way Out, released the next year, and subsequently went their separate ways. Kingsley then pursued a solo career recording Music to Moog By, released in 1969, a classic Moog album consisting mainly of cover songs, originally by The Beatles, Beethoven, and Simon and Garfunkel, but there also was original material, like his best known composition, Popcorn, which became his "signature song". His next musical effort was with a band called First Moog Quartet: they only recorded one album entitled First Moog Quartet, released in 1970, 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]


Many artists have covered "Popcorn", including Hot Butter, Aphex Twin, Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass, Marsheaux, Muse, Crazy Frog and The Muppets. The composition was used in the Soviet animated series Nu, pogodi!. 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",[13] "Tu" and "Ti Amo".

Other notable works[edit]

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. 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.[5][clarification needed]

Partial discography[edit]

  • 1960 Ernest in Love (Original Off-Broadway Cast) arranger and orchestrator
  • 1962 Fly Blackbird! Original Cast Album conductor, arranger
  • 1963 Shoshana! conductor
  • 1964 The Cradle Will Rock musical director, pianist
  • 1964 Mozart After Hours conductor, arranger, harpsichordist
  • 1964 Jan Peerce on 2nd Avenue conductor, arranger
  • 1965 Fleury — The Isles of Greece arranger, conductor
  • 1966 The In Sound from Way Out!
  • 1966 New Songs of the Auvergne — Netania Davrath orchestrator
  • 1966 Jan Peerce — Art of the Cantor conductor, arranger
  • 1967 Kaleidoscopic Vibrations: Electronic Pop Music from Way Out
  • 1968 Shabbat '68
  • 1968 The New Exciting Voice of Sol Zimel — Favorite Jewish Melodies arranger, conductor
  • 1969 Jan Peerce Neapolitan Serenade
  • 1969 Music to Moog By with the original version of Popcorn
  • 1969 Shabbat for Today
  • 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 a new name)
  • 1971 Sabbath for Today
  • 1972 First Moog Quartet — Popcorn
  • 1974 The 5th Cup Featuring Theodore Bikel
  • 1980 Julia Migenes Latin Lady (producer, conductor, arranger)
  • 1982 Julia Migenes-Johnson Sings Gershwin (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
  • 2009 Silent Night, Bloody Night (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)

Film scores[edit]

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)


  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. ^ a b "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 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. ^ Video of Tozzi singing his original "Gloria" on YouTube

External links[edit]