Matisyahu: Making Music that Moves
Beliefnet interviews the reggae singer on his fans, his music and the connection he shares with it all.
He pauses. “I think in general as you get older and have more experience you open up more and you explore. It’s more of an organic evolution. [I’m] trying to appreciate the small moments and the little things. The people that I meet that are really touched by the music really affect me.”
Touring offers Matisyahu a chance to meet those people. He tells me about the night prior to our interview when he was in Charlotte, Virginia.
“I was signing autographs. It was over an hour, maybe more – just people telling me their stories and how they like the music,” he says. “Yesterday, we had a boy who died. I think he was 19; he died in his sleep. His favorite song was ‘I Will Be Light’. He was a big fan. They made his soccer jerseys, because he was good soccer player. They made jerseys that all said, ‘I Will Be Light’ on them. His mom came to the show, and we dedicated the song to him last night. It was pretty cool.”
Sometimes, a connection with a fan leads to something more. Recently, he launched Elijah’s Song after a chance encounter with a special young fan.
“Where I lived in Brooklyn, there’s a shul synagogue, but it’s a central point in the community. Everybody is always in there praying three times a day,” he describes.
He was approached by a man who wanted him to meet a boy who was suffering from cancer. Matisyahu didn’t find it to be an unusual request, and eventually he met Elijah. “We connected right away. I really took to him. Special, special kid. We stayed in touch over the years. He would come to shows. I went to his bar mitzvah. Things were good for a while.”
Doctors were not optimistic about Elijah’s condition; however, he lived much longer than expected. “They didn’t think he was going to make it. They told him months, and he lasted for years,” Matisyahu says. “In the end, we had a show and he came to the show and then got sick and went back into the ICU. Then we knew there wasn’t a lot of time. We recorded a song. We didn’t know that he was going to die until the next morning.”
After Elijah passed away, Matisyahu went into the studio and finished the song that he wrote with the young man. What came out of it was “Elijah’s Song”. The creation has a dedicated Web site and proceeds from sales go towards Elijah’s mother to help pay for hospital costs. She also lost her husband to the same disease.