A guy from Astoria, Queens, named Daniel Snider who’s got endless charisma and natural stage presence – he’s gotta be Jewish, right?
“You guys are funny, you think because I’m an entertainer, I must be Jewish. It’s like with the Greeks, ‘We invented everything.’ Well, I think there have been a couple decent Christian entertainers too,” the Daniel Snider in question on the other end of the phone call laughed.
Snider, better known as the ghoulish, wild-haired, heavy metal rocker Dee Snider who propelled to fame in the 1980s as the front man of Twisted Sister, conceded however that he indeed did hail from the Tribe, on his father’s side.
“My mom said that my dad was the least-Jewish Jewish guy she ever met. He was a cop and a baseball player, the job lines with the lowest percentage of Jews working in them. Then he went and married a Roman Catholic. So if ever a guy was rejecting his religion it was him. My only connection to Judaism was the Hannuka money I’d get from my grandparents, which I’d used to buy Christmas presents for my brothers and sister,” said the 63-year-old Snider who grew up singing in a Protestant church choir.
Once he got exposed to rock & roll, though, in the form of the provocative, theatrically-focused roar coming out of New York-area bands like the New York Dolls and glitter rockers from across the shore, he let his hair grow, began dressing androgynously and worked his way through a succession of bands before joining Twisted Sister in 1976.
Their third album, 1984’s Stay Hungry, featured huge hits “We’re Not Gonna Take It” and “I Wanna Rock,” and propelled the heavily made-up Snider and his flowing golden locks into an international icon. Snider further permeated the cultural landscape when he testified in Senate hearings in 1985 instigated by the Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC), which wanted to introduce a parental warning system that would label all albums containing offensive material.
After leaving the band in 1987, Snider went on to a successful career, both as a solo artist and as an entertaining and outspoken radio talk show host. He’s making his first appearance in Israel on July 2 at Reading 3 in Tel Aviv, returning to his metal roots with a crack new band and a lot of energy.
So many bands coming out of the New York area in the mid-1970s had a huge visual element – from the NY Dolls to The Ramones to Kiss. Did you feel part of that?
Definitely. There must have been something in the water from that part of the country. I would say that the New York Dolls were more of an influence on me, but I was definitely a Kiss fan. They were in Queens and I was in Nassau County, but there was a buzz about them – the makeup and all that stuff.
When I joined Twisted Sister in 1976, they had been together for three years and they were a Dolls clone, wearing women’s clothing and makeup. I got them to change the image when I joined, after meeting my future wife. She explained to us that we weren’t pretty, prancing around with makeup on, we were scary. ‘You need to forget about wearing dresses, you’re little monsters.’ So she started making clothes for the band shortly after that. The outfits slowly started evolving into this Raggedy-Ann-on-acid look, tattered, post-apocalyptic or whatever.
You became a huge star in your early 20s, just when you were newly married and starting a family. How did you balance that?
That was a choice I made in what I wanted out of life. I wanted to be married and have kids, that was my rock & roll lifestyle. I was very unusual. Despite my stage appearance, I didn’t do drugs or drink, I worked out.
I was this odd man out in the music community – they looked at me like I was an alien and I looked at them they like they were insane. ‘You do realize life is a marathon and not a sprint, right? I don’t want to be in the ‘27’ club, I want to be in the ‘87’ club.’
You’ve had a lot of success in radio. How did you adapt from being onstage in front of thousands to being faceless behind a microphone?
It’s a different skill set, but fortunately I’ve been blessed with many skill sets. You can’t assume that just because you’re good at one thing that you’ll be a natural at the other. But radio has been a second career for me for 25 years.
The best way to describe it is to tell you the title of my memoirs: Shut Up and Give me the Mic. I love microphones, whether it’s in the studio or on a stage, just give me the damn mic.
You just released a song from your forthcoming album called ‘Tomorrow’s No Concern.’ Does that reflect that your philosophy?
Very much so. What was done yesterday is of no concern, you can keep it. I’ve always been a person who would rather talk about what I’m currently doing, which hasn’t sold anything yet, rather than about whatever I did in the past, no matter how great it was.
I’m proud of my accomplishments and I loved Twisted Sister, but I always focus on the new thing. There’s so many new and exciting projects. That’s what fuels me. The past is great but it doesn’t make you want to get up in the morning and charge forward.
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