The Jewish Musician Who Risked His Path to Stardom to Keep the Sabbath

November 3, 2021 | Paul Glynn
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In 2011, the British pop singer Alex Clare had finally made it big: his first album was coming out, and he had been scheduled to go on tour with the singer-songwriter Adele. But Clare, raised in a secular Jewish home, had in the previous years embraced strict religious observance, and informed his producers that he would have to miss several concert dates because of Shabbat and Jewish holidays. The record company subsequently dropped him, until, as Paul Glynn reports

several months later, when the newly label-less singer suddenly found himself with a hit on his hands. “Too Close,” . . . from his debut album, began to work its way on to radio playlists and up near the top of the UK singles chart in April 2012, thanks largely to an appearance on a Microsoft advertisement.

“We have a saying in Hebrew, gam zu l’tovah, which means, ‘This too is good,’” says Clare. “We say that when something goes really badly wrong. It’s a crazy [thing] to have enough faith to say, ‘This right now is a really bad situation but ultimately God is good and life is good and this is for a greater good,’ whatever that might be. And in my case it really worked out that way.”

Nine years on, Clare is speaking to us around the release of his new single, “Why Don’t Ya,” another booming ballad which marks the end of his five-year hiatus. . . . The track . . . is an ode to his wife, with whom he “ran away” to Israel in 2015, with their firstborn (they now have three children) to “focus on spirituality” and study the Torah and the Talmud.

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