October 19th, 2016
Peter Himmelman’s new book provides practical ideas for bringing your ideas to fruition
By MORDECAI SPECKTOR
Peter Himmelman’s new book, Let Me Out: Unlock Your Creative Mind and Bring Your Ideas to Life (Tarcher Perigree), includes a photo of the author with renowned local musician and songwriter Steven Greenberg.
The snapshot from 1980 documents a moment in their relationship, when Himmelman was a 20-year-old aspiring musician, and Greenberg, “the multitalented drummer of the Kinship, Minneapolis’ most popular bar mitzva and wedding band,” had produced a dance song called “Funkytown,” which would become a global hit — No. 1 on the charts in 28 countries.
Himmelman, a St. Louis Park native, would visit Greenberg, bringing him song demos and soliciting his sage opinions. On one afternoon, Himmelman wrote a song titled “Cursed with What It Means,” about a friend of his parents, Mr. Fuff, a Holocaust survivor, who ended up killing his wife. Mr. Fuff was packed off to a mental institution and pumped full of Thorazine.
“I raced to Steve Greenberg’s place, cassette in hand,” Himmelman writes in Let Me Out. “This was a whole new style of music, dark and spare with intense lyrics based on a true story, and I knew he was going to love it. I put the cassette in his giant Marantz stereo and let the music fill the room. When the song finally trailed off, Steve got up off his recliner and walked toward the stereo. He had a big smile on his face, so naturally I assumed he’d turn up the volume and play the song again. But instead, he ejected the cassette and hiked it between his legs, like a football center. It flew up into the air, end over end, until it crashed into the brickwork of his fireplace.”
Himmelman writes that it was “really tough. I stared at the tape cartridge, now in pieces, and wondered how all my passion and enthusiasm for this song had vanished in less than four seconds.”
(In the way of full disclosure, Steven Greenberg is a partner in the American Jewish World’s parent company, Minnesota Jewish Media, LLC.)
After a period of recovering from the cassette tape incident, Himmelman went on to become a beloved musician, in the local rock unit Sussman Lawrence. His subsequent successes include critically acclaimed albums for adults and children, sold-out concerts across the country and jobs scoring music for TV shows and films. About five years ago, he founded Big Muse (bigmuse.com), his vehicle for presenting creativity seminars to corporations and various other groups. Let Me Out is a compendium of the concepts and techniques Himmelman has professed in the seminars.