Shlomo Carlebach’s Top 10 Songs
Asking someone to rate the songs of the father of modern Jewish music is like asking a parent of multiple children to pick his or her favorite child. Despite the daunting task, though, here is a list (in no particular order) of the most popular/influential/ubiquitous songs from the over 600 compositions that appear on nearly 50 recordings by the late, great Reb Shlomo:
“VeHa’er Einenu” – Released in 1969 as an entry to the Chassidic Song Festival in Israel, this song won third place and quickly became a favorite and standard at weddings and bar mitzvahs during the 70s, and continues to be sung worldwide today.
“Od Yishama” – There isn’t a Jewish wedding in which Reb Shlomo’s “Od Yishama” isn’t heard. Over the years, nearly every chassidic singer and band has an adaption of these lyrics, but the Carlebach version remains the golden standard.
“Od Avinu Chai” – This song, released in 1967, was widely recognized as the anthem of the Soviet Jewry movement and continues to be sung at rallies and gatherings of Jews worldwide.
“Lema’an Achai veRe’ai” – In these turbulent times, this classic calls out to us to come together as brothers and friends for the sake of peace.
“Yisrael Betach BaShem” – For years, this song was heard by hundreds of thousands of radio listeners in Israel as it was played on the radio each morning. It sends us the powerful message to place our trust in Hashem.
“Shifchi KaMayim” – A soul-stirring composition that used to bring the “singing and dancing rabbi” to tears in many of his performances, “Shifchi” can still be heard at kumzitzes worldwide.
“LeShana Haba’a B’Yerushalayim” – Thousands upon thousands of Jewish wedding dance sets and Simchat Torah hakafot playlists have concluded with this classic prayer and hope to celebrate next year in Yerushalayim. Its staccato rhythm is unmistakably Carlebach.
“Mizmor LeDavid” and “Veshamru” – The proliferation of “Carlebach minyanim” caused these two tunes to be adopted as Friday night standards. Many shuls across the globe now feature these two compositions in their “mainstream minyanim,” leading to familiarity among the next generation of shul-goers.
“Niggun Krakow” and “Niggun Neshomele” – One of Shlomo Carlebach’s greatest gifts to us are his catchy and meaningful nigunnim. There are times when no lyrics were needed to convey the emotions and feelings, and he captured this with dozens of niggunim that have stood the test of time. These two are, perhaps, the most famous.
“Esah Einai” – This catchy tune dates back to 1959 and appeared on Reb Shlomo’s first record. Whether adapted to Anim Zemirot or sung with its original lyrics, this song still sounds contemporary and fresh and exemplifies the simplicity of his arrangements and compositions.
Other notables: “Atah Takum,” “Yachad Yachad,” “Siman Tov U’Mazal Tov,” “Yibaneh,” “U’Vau HaOvdim,” “Anah Hashem,” and “Gam Ki Elech.”
Roni is the longtime host of Florida’s Sunday morning Jewish music radio show Shalom South Florida. He has an M.S. in Journalism and Communication and has one of the largest collections of Jewish music in North America. He was also the writer of the Top Chai music column in The Jewish Press for 10 years. Follow him on Twitter at @ShalomSouthFL. For more information, visit www.ShalomSouthFlorida.com.