By David Werther.
Peter Himmelman, Mission of My Soul: The Best of Peter Himmelman (Shout #0-7389-3365-1)
Mission of My Soul is a collection of 19 songs from the last 20 years by Peter Himmelman, from This Father's Day (1986) to Imperfect World (2005). The theme running through the songs is awe and humility. "Do something that makes you cry, that makes you weep with awe. There is a state of humility where you can feel something coming from a dimension outside oneself. That recognition, that sense of awe, is what I use to make things" (Peter Himmelman, http://www.peterhimmelman.com).
Whether the song is acoustic ("Raina"), pop ("With You"), or a hard-edged electric ("Imperfect World"), the power of Himmelman's music is that it takes us to the place of humility where it originated. So, for example, while he calls his song about a woman with ALS ("Woman with the Strength of 10,000 Men") a "memo to myself," the song becomes an occasion for putting our own selves on notice as we begin to be aware and ashamed of our ingratitude. In "Always in Disguise" we see our youthful delusions of grandeur dissipate, to be replaced by the wonder and weightiness of a single kiss. "Beneath the Damage and the Dust" reminds us that the street person whose presence is so threatening to us was once a baby we would have longed to hold.
While songs like "Beneath the Damage and the Dust" underscore the tragic aspects of life, "Mission of My Soul" celebrates loving devotion, and "I Feel Young Today" is so exuberant that one feels ready to join the singer when he calls, "hey run with me now, right down to the sea." In the live version of "Closer," from a show at The Bottom Line, we get a little window into the spontaneous and funny side of Himmelman's shows—for example, his spur-of-the-moment lyrics and improvisation. Anyone who has been to a Himmelman show has stories to tell. Once when playing at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Memorial Union he ended a show by leading us out of the Union, singing and playing as he made his way down Langdon Street, til the show finally ended at the entrance to his hotel.
If you are not familiar with Himmelman's music, it may well be the result of his willingness to break the rules of rock stardom. According to these rules artists live on the road to promote their latest recording. As an observant Jew, Peter is more interested in keeping the Sabbath than selling CDs, and so he does not perform on Friday nights. That observance may have gotten in the way of making him a household name, but it has certainly not hurt his creativity. If you go to his website at http://www.peterhimmelman.com (do go!), you'll see that the CDs from which Mission of My Soul: The Best of Peter Himmelman is culled hardly exhaust his creativity. There you will also find his work for the television show "Judging Amy," movie scores, three children's CDs, and five CDs taken from "the Himmelvaults."