Hasidic star Matisyahu saving reggae with new disc

Fri Aug 21, 2009 5:10pm EDT
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By Dean Goodman

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - It's not easy being a big celebrity in a close-knit Orthodox Jewish community.

Hasidic reggae star Matisyahu, who achieved unlikely pop success in 2005 with the single "King Without a Crown," tries to live a simple life with his young family in Crown Heights, a neighborhood in the New York City borough of Brooklyn.

His two sons go to school across the road, the kosher pizza shop is around the corner, and he walks to temple three times a day. It sounds fairly idyllic, not unlike a "shtetl," the Yiddish term for a small Jewish town or village.

But Matisyahu can blend in only so far with his traditional full beard and dark suit. People often ask him for money, or accuse him of setting a bad example if he happens to be praying while not wearing his hat and jacket.

"I do get a lot of crap," Matisyahu, 30, -- whose real name is Matthew Miller -- said with resignation during a recent interview in his tour bus.

"It's the Jewish way. They don't care. There's no space. There aren't those typical sensitivities to people. Some people are (sensitive), but you get a lot of people who have no sense of boundary and are pushy."

The old Matisyahu tried to be accommodating, fearful of being labeled an arrogant celebrity. He is slowly learning to push back when people test his patience, but realizes the attention is the price you pay for your riches and fame.

"It's what you sign up for," he said. "When famous people are pissed off about all this stuff, it's like, 'What did you expect? Don't tell me you didn't want the fame a little bit.'"   Continued...

<p>Hasidic Jewish reggae musician Matthew Paul Miller, better known by his Hebrew name Matisyahu, poses for a portrait in Los Angeles June 16, 2009. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni</p>