As a kid growing up in Brooklyn, I didn’t want to be Jewish. If I was ever asked, I would say I was Italian, people seemed to like Italians and I wanted to be liked.
I remember walking to shul on the high holidays, I would always be so terrified that someone I knew would see me dressed in my holiday suit. I would wait until I was inside the shul to put on my yarmulke, and I would immediately remove it upon leaving.
We were traditional Jews. We had cousins who were orthodox. They lived on the lower east side in Manhattan. They’re lives were very strange to me. And although I never had anything against orthodoxy, I couldn’t see myself living a life like that, full of such restriction, and religious obligations. Don’t do this. Don’t eat that. You can’t go here, you can’t go there. And the thought of using my Jewish name made me feel a little uneasy inside. Yea, being traditional was more than enough for me.
I had other ideas of what I wanted to do with my life. For example when I was 6, I wanted to be a super hero and I would save my sisters from the ferocious beast in the back yard. OK it was Spunky, but he was a little ferocious at times. When I was 12, I dreamed that I was a racecar driver, I would sit in a shopping cart pretending to be racing in the Indy 500. When I was 16, my family had moved to Florida, and now I wanted to be a bodybuilder. I lifted weights day and night, took vitamins the size of grapefruits, drank protein shakes and flexed my muscles in the mirror a lot.
When I was 19 though, it all came together for me. I was going to be a rock star. It didn’t matter that I didn’t play an instrument and that I couldn’t sing on key. I’d been writing poems since I was a kid, and I decided I would try to put them to music. I wrote my poetry about things that mattered to me. Thoughts and feelings I had about myself, and the things I saw. I felt that I had a message to share and I wanted to get it out there. Not to mention that the thought of performing in front of hundreds of thousands of screaming fans appealed to me. My mother bought me an old beat up piano and I began banging away at the keys.