gene simmons
  • Faith: Judaism
  • Career: Musician
  • Birthday:  September 25, 1949

Gene Simmons, born Chaim Witz, is a musician. Also known by his stage persona “The Demon,” he was the bassist and co-lead singer of the hard rock band Kiss. He co-founded the group with Ace Frehley, Paul Stanley, and Peter Criss in the early 1970s until their retirement in 2023. Simmons was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of Kiss in 2014. Simmons was born at Rambam Hospital in Haifa, Israel. When he was eight years old, he and his mother immigrated to the United States, settling in New York City. His father stayed in Israel, where he had another son and three daughters.

In the United States, Simmons changed his name to Gene Klein, adopting his mother’s maiden name. When he was nine, he briefly attended a Jewish religious school, Yeshiva Torah Vodaas, before transferring to a public school. He later attended Richmond College and Sullivan County Community College, both in New York and chose a stage name in tribute to the rockabilly singer Jumpin’ Gene Simmons. He practiced playing his guitar for hours on end. Before his musical career started, he worked at various jobs in the city. A proficient typist, he served as an assistant to an editor of Vogue and spent several months as a sixth-grade instructor on the Upper West Side.

The Beatles had a major influence on Simmons. He said, “There is no way I’d be doing what I do now if it wasn’t for the Beatles. I was watching ‘The Ed Sullivan Show’ and I saw them. Those skinny little boys, kind of androgynous, with long hair like girls. It blew me away that these four boys from the middle of nowhere could make that music.” Simmons became involved with his first band, Lynx, then renamed the Missing Links when he was a teenager. Eventually, he disbanded the band to form the Long Island Sounds, the name being a pun on the Long Island Sound. While he played in these bands, he worked odd jobs on the side to make more money. He joined a new band, Bullfrog Bheer, and the band recorded a demo. Simmons formed Wicked Lester in the early 1970s with Paul Stanley and recorded one album, which was never released.

Unhappy with Wicked Lester’s look and sound, Simmons and Stanley tried to fire their band members, but when they were met with resistance, they instead quit, walking away from their record deal with Epic Records, as they decided to form the “ultimate rock band” in its place. Looking for a drummer, Simmons and Stanley found an ad place by Peter Criss, who was playing clubs in Brooklyn at the time. They joined and started as a trio. Ace Frehley responded to an ad they put in The Village Voice for a lead guitar player and soon joined them. Kiss released their self-titled debut album in February 1974. Stanley took on the role of lead performer on stage, while Simmons became the driving force behind what became an extensive Kiss merchandising franchise.

What religion is Gene Simmons?

Simmons’ mother, Florence, was born in Jánd and survived internment in Nazi concentration camps. She and her brother, Larry, were the only members of the family to survive the Holocaust. Simmons’ father, Ferenc, was a carpenter. Simmons spent his early childhood in Tirat Carmel and was raised in a practicing Jewish household. He’s said that his family was “dirt poor,” scraping by on rationed milk and bread.

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