It’s safe to say that the world has been crazier than usual over the last year and a half. The shared pandemic-induced struggles throughout the world will continue to be a morbid bond among the survivors. As the pandemic recovery turns a corner, expect the arts to reflect on this troubling time for years to come.
That is precisely what famed Israeli folk rock singer Miki Gavrielov has done. After recording over twenty solo albums in multiple languages since the 1960s, he has recorded his first song in English, “A World’s Gone Crazy.” It’s a 70s-style pensive ballad, reflecting on the discouraging, raw, rough society in which we live.
Gavrielov is well-known throughout Israel for being the founding bassist of the psychedelic rock band The Churchills in the mid 1960s. He is also known for his collaborations with the late Arik Einstein, with whom he began performing in the early 1970s. Gavrielov has written, performed, toured and recorded in the music scene for decades. He’s lost count of exactly how many songs he’s worked on but estimates that it has been hundreds.
Gavrielov is well-known throughout Israel for being the founding bassist of the psychedelic rock band The Churchills in the mid 1960s.
While he usually writes his own lyrics and music, this time around the lyrics were brought to Gavrielov by his own daughter, Shira, an “American Idol” contestant from 2013.
Shira’s lyrics capture the feeling of bleakness that consumes so many of us, especially over the last year and a half. Perhaps the world has always been crazy, but society has added 4K cameras in every pocket to document the craziness, which leads to the song touching on the tender human faces behind all of the madness:
The streets are bleak and cold / All faces look so sad within this precious world / I want to hear your laughter / I want to see your smile keep on feeling my love.
A music video accompanies the song, serving as a montage complementing the song with imagery of the best and worst of this crazy world: pollution, riots, a dog scavenging a dumpster, floods and fighting. All of these dark images are contrasted with scenes of recycling, hugs, doctors caring for patients, troops returning home safely, and ending with a silhouette of a person who is rejoicing on top of a mountain during sunset.
The guitar chords for “A World’s Gone Crazy” came to Miki from an unlikely source: David Lowy, a hard-rocking Australian guitarist from the band The Dead Daisies. Lowy closes out the song with a guitar solo that weeps the song to an uplifting end.
Together, Gavrielov and Lowy could hardly have more different upbringings in music.
Gavrielov grew up in Tel Aviv, as the son of parents who made aliyah from Turkey. His father worked hard to support young Miki and his six siblings, and life wasn’t exactly easy—sometimes they had to buy groceries on layaway. As the only sibling to take a deep interest in music, Gavrielov remembers the moment he knew he wanted to be a guitarist. And it involved an Elvis impersonator.
“We had this gibberish Elvis in our neighborhood who used to play the guitar. An Israeli singing Elvis in gibberish!” Gavrielov recalls, still speaking as if he is still amazed by what he saw. “I saw him playing a red plastic guitar and my eyes went out when I saw him.” By the time Gavrielov had his bar mitzvah, his father had bought him his first guitar. His earliest gigs were backing a friend’s band doing covers of English singer-guitarist Cliff Richards. Looking back, he also cites The Beatles and Rolling Stones as some of his early influences.
But an even greater influence on Gavrielov was his immersion in four different cultures. Between home and his Tel Aviv community, he grew up hearing Turkish, Hebrew, Spanish and Arabic. The blending of the cultures in his neighborhood with those of his family led to him developing a multicultural, multilingual sound.
“I learned music from all four cultures. I made albums translating from Turkey to Hebrew … in Israel, you can see and listen to many cultures from all over the world, and understand all the cultures’ music. When I became older, and I started to write music, it helped me very much.”
Lowy’s music genesis is vastly different from that of Gavrielov. He grew up in Australia, started playing the piano around age five, played as a bassist in a garage band in his teens, and then stopped playing music altogether. For the next twenty-five years, Lowy was primarily a businessman. He went into the investment side of the family business, Westfield Corporation. Lowy even recalls a time in the 1980s when his father had a guest he met while playing tennis at a resort over for shabbat dinner. It was George Harrison. Lowy and his mother Shirley (who passed away in Israel last December) were awestruck. His father Frank, who didn’t realize that Harrison was a famous musician, had to be told what his tennis buddy did for a living.
Lowy even recalls a time in the 1980s when his father had a guest he met while playing tennis at a resort over for shabbat dinner. It was George Harrison.
During that musical hiatus, Lowy also found his way into aviation and became a pilot. He still trains and flies to this day.
“I like to say that I’ve done my life in reverse,” Lowy says. About twenty years ago, after nearly a quarter-century hiatus, Lowy returned to playing the guitar as part of a “battle of the bands” corporate fundraiser, where each band was paired with an established rock star. That put Lowy in the orbit of some of rock music’s top brass. In 2012, he started his own band called The Dead Daisies—a hard-rock supergroup featuring a rotating cast of bandmates, many of whom have played in some of the most multi-platinum bands of rock music. Currently, The Dead Daisies lead singer is Glenn Hughes from Deep Purple, the guitarist is Doug Aldrich who was in Whitesnake for many years, and the drummer is Tommy Clufetos from Black Sabbath.
And unlike Gavrielov, Lowy doesn’t prefer to write lyrics. And while Gavrielov typically plays solo shows, Lowy is more of a band guy and prefers to write in odd time signatures, seldom seen in popular rock. The two met by chance at a dinner in the New York area a few years ago, and re-connected in Israel during the early days of the pandemic. Lowy had a chord progression that he had written for the guitar and offered it to Gavrielov.
And while Gavrielov typically plays solo shows, Lowy is more of a band guy and prefers to write in odd time signatures, seldom seen in popular rock.
That chord progression would be the first part of “A World’s Gone Crazy.” In time, Gavrielov recorded the song in his studio, with a session band and his daughter’s lyrics. Lowy’s guitar solo was the last part to be added.
The two musicians have their similarities, too. Both Lowy and Gavrielov prefer to do small, intimate concerts with no more than 100 people—the kind of shows that have been forbidden due to the pandemic. Even after experiencing the thrill of playing on stage for tens of thousands of people, they both agree that it’s the small shows where they connect best with their fans. And of course they both are committed to instilling the love of music in their offspring. In fact, Lowy has proudly gifted instruments to his grandchildren.
Hope for the next generation is how “A World’s Gone Crazy” closes:
We’ve got to win this fight / We’ll keep on ‘till we’ll see the light / We’ll say our prayer and then we’ll cry / We’ll grow white wings and fly up to the sky
Together, their new song is a joining of two distinct styles from opposite ends of the world, coming together in Israel to offer the world a message of empathy for the bad times and optimism for the better—even if that world is still a bit crazy.
Brian Fishbach is a music journalist in Los Angeles.