Music fans, fellow Jews lay George Fogelman to rest

By Donald H. Harrison

George Fogelman

SAN DIEGO — Fellow Jews and fellow musicians joined forces on Wednesday, Nov. 27, to pay last tribute to George Alan Fogelman, 72, who died of cancer on Nov. 22 while under hospice care, leaving his wife Gail, two children, three grandchildren, nieces and nephews and many friends.

Rabbis Joshua Dorsch and Leonard Rosenthal of Tifereth Israel Synagogue presided over the burial service at El Camino Cemetery, where mourners were greeted by recorded strains of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and “Wonderful World.”  Rabbi Rosenthal opened the service by quoting from Don McLean’s “American Pie”:  “A long long time ago/ I can still remember how/ That music used to make me smile/ And I knew if I had the chance/ That I could make those people dance/ And maybe they’d be happy for a while….”

Explained Rosenthal: “There are few people I know whose very lives and essence are so deeply bound with music.  George lived and breathed music, whether he was performing, composing, creating, or simply walking around his house humming.  George loved to entertain, and he considered bringing smiles and joy to his audience his greatest achievement.”

In 2006, a San Diego Jewish World/ story about Fogelman reported:

As a high school student, Fogelman played saxophone and accordion for “The Twilighters,” a band inspired by one of the Platters’ best-known hits, “Twilight Time.”  The Twilighters performed at service clubs, graduation parties and bar/ bat mitzvah receptions.  While a student at San Diego State University, Fogelman performed in a Sergio Mendez-inspired band called “Sounds of ’68.”  Another band that played for San Diego’s well-known stage hypnotist, Dr. Michael Dean, “was getting ready to retire, and we auditioned and got the job… It was 5-6 nights a week, first at the Catamaran Hotel, and then at the Gaslight Room on Rosecrans Street.  So I was his musical director.”

During that period, Fogelman also opened a recording studio, which produced approximately 250 jingles for radio and television commercials, “probably none that you would know,” although some for KMart and DHL Express made it to regional broadcast.

On the Michael Dean show, Fogelman had the opportunity to work with guest artists, among them Cheech and Chong, who were just starting, and singer Roberta Lynn.  Additionally, “at one point we got hooked up with KPRI, a rock station, and they had a Friday studio concert and they would come in and record.  We had Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show, and Al Kooper came in.”

Fogelman wanted to move from control booth to microphone, so he formed a new band, “Peace on Earth” with  Jeff Dalrymple,  percussion;  Doug Kvandal, keyboard, and  Dave Maynard, vocalist, hoping their musical careers would take off. “We were trying to be a band without a guitar but alas and alack we had to have a guitarist.”  Maynard became one, and later, they added guitarist Rafe Lindenberg, “who was very good.”  At one point, the band felt certain it was headed for a recording contract and national exposure, but “it didn’t work out.”

Disappointed, Fogelman returned to San Diego and earned a  teaching credential so he could substitute teach during the inevitable down times in the music business. One day while running errands with his mother, he stopped by a Home Federal Savings & Loan branch to open a Keogh account.  Normally Gail Schindler, who handled his account that day, worked at a different bank branch, so perhaps their meeting was beshert.  They were married in 1976, and for Fogelman, it was instant fatherhood—daughter Juliana was a child of Gail’s previous marriage. Within a few years, a second daughter, Arianna, arrived. The preschool that Ari attended at the old Jewish Community Center on 54th Street changed the direction of Fogelman’s career.

A product of  both Tifereth Israel Synagogue and Temple Emanu-El, respectively under Rabbi Monroe Levens and Rabbi Morton Cohn, Fogelman enjoyed Jewish music. With singer Myrna Cohen, he  produced a 33 1/3 RPM album, “Special Days For Children” to raise money for the JCC pre-school.  Later, he and Cohen, who is today the cantorial soloist at Temple Emanu-El, collaborated on such other tapes (and later CDs) as “Lullabies and Quiet Time,” and “Swinging Chai.”

After he married Gail, they and their children Juli and Ari used to sing on recordings made by Fogelman’s company Jewish Family Recordings.  “Around the same time Randee Friedman formed Soundswrite Productions, which ended up distributing Fogelman’s work,” Rosenthal related.  “In turn, George did a lot of music recording and production for Randee, including Debbie Friedman’s early albums.  Randee told George that he was an absolute gem to work with and real mensch in business dealings.”

Fogelman later in life performed with his friends at the Amigo Spot at Hotel Circle in San Diego.  “He was in his element singing and playing saxophone and wind board,” said Rosenthal.  “I saw him there several times and I could see that he loved what he was doing and was loved by the patrons, many of whom were regulars.”

A perpetual optimist, Fogelman was a “glass half full” type of fellow, whose spirit was typified by one of his favorite songs “Pure Imagination” from Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.  The lyrics say, in part:  “If you want to view paradise/ Simply look around and view it. Anything you want to, do it./ Wanta change the world?/ there’s nothing/ to it/ There is no/ Life I know/ To compare with/ Pure imagination/ Living there/ You’ll be free/ If you truly wish to be./”

Fogelman regularly performed at Tifereth Israel Synagogue in the Shir Hadash band, which on the third Friday evening of every month leads an upbeat version of the Kabbalat Shabbat service.  Besides Fogelman’s saxophone, the ban included two vocalists, and other musicians on piano, guitar, bass guitar, and clarinet.

For many years Fogelman had battled prostate cancer with such medical treatments as chemo-therapy, radiation, and any other therapies available.  Ever an optimist, he even believed while in hospice that he would beat the cancer.

“The tag line in ‘American Pie’ is ‘the day the music died,’” Rabbi Rosenthal noted.  “Although George is no longer with us, the music he created is, both in the books and recordings he produced, and in our hears and our memories.  George would not have wanted the music to end with him.  He would have wanted us to continue living, laughing and singing.”

Following the graveside service, Fogelman’s friends and fans reconvened at the Amigo Spot.

Harrison is editor of San Diego Jewish World.  He may be contacted via [email protected].  San Diego Jewish World’s eulogy series is sponsored by Marc and Margaret Cohen in memory of Molly Cohen, and by Inland Industries Group LP in memory of long-time San Diego Jewish community leader Marie (Mrs. Gabriel) Berg.

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