Pop pioneer hails Germany despite Holocaust misery

Mon Apr 19, 2010 6:37am EDT
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By Dave Graham

BERLIN (Reuters Life!) - As a teenager, Gershon Kingsley was forced to flee his home, friends and family to escape the Nazis -- but the composer of evergreen electronic hit "Popcorn" is still grateful that he grew up in Germany.

Cast out of Berlin into Middle Eastern deserts aged just 15, Kingsley would not see his family for eight years after he fled to what is now Israel before the Kristallnacht pogrom in 1938.

But though he did not write Popcorn for three more decades, the Moog synthesizer pioneer said the artistic legacy of his native country was one of the keys to understanding his music.

"I am glad I was born in Germany and partook of German culture. Because whether you're talking about Beethoven, Goethe or Wagner, it's unique in the history of humankind," Kingsley told Reuters in a telephone interview from New York.

"Popcorn is a classical melody, it could easily be incorporated into a Bach piece," he added. "It's so transparent -- it's like why you can't change a Mozart melody. It took me five minutes. But I could never do it again."

One of the most ubiquitous tunes in the history of electronic music, Popcorn has been covered hundreds of times and used in everything from commercials to films and computer games.

Yet the tale of its success is almost as unusual as the life of Kingsley, who was born Goetz Gustav Ksinski in the western city of Bochum to a Jewish father and Catholic mother in 1922.

"On my gravestone it will say 'The composer of Popcorn'. Unfortunately. I've had enough popcorn," said Kingsley, whose constant laughter and rapid-fire delivery belie his 87 years.   Continued...