A master of the synthesizer: Gershon Kingsley

…but nobody the composer!

Someone wrote: “Actually I like it, this clucking, which reminds me more of chickens than popcorn. It’s kind of legendary, and it’s definitely better than the chicken dance… “The piece was composed by Gershon Kingsley, who first recorded it in 1969 for his album Music to Moog By, at that time still written Pop Corn. In 1971 the keyboarder Stan Free re-recorded it under the pseudonym Hot Butter, and it entered the charts in 1972. The record was one of the music releases that, based on the Moog synthesizer, were characteristic of synth pop of the 1960s and 1970s.

Who was this “Gershon Kingley“, the composer of this catchy tune? Born on October 28, 1922 as Götz Gustav Ksinski in Bochum, the son of a Jewish-German father and a Catholic-born Polish mother, he grew up in Berlin. In 1938 he fled from National Socialist Germany to Palestine. There he lived and worked in a kibbutz, learned to play the piano and performed with local jazz bands in the vicinity of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. Kingsley studied in Jerusalem and went to the United States in 1946. After his success with Pop Corn he returned to Germany and worked in Munich mainly as a film and advertising composer. From the late 1990s he lived in New York. His parents had emigrated to the USA via Cuba in 1939.

The earliest testimony to his career is a classical record: in 1966 he arranged 15 French folk songs by Joseph Canteloube and also conducted the recording with the soprano Natania Davrath in Vienna.

Kingsley’s career as a pop musician began with the release of the album The In Sound from Way Out, which he recorded together with Jean-Jacques Perrey. With Music to Moog By, Kingsley created a classic Moog album, which mainly contains cover versions of songs by well-known artists such as The Beatles, Beethoven and Simon and Garfunkel. The best known and most successful version of his synthesizer instrumental Pop Corn was created by Hot Butter in 1972.

Kingsley also composed two operas, Tierra (1992, Munich Gasteig) and Raoul (2008, Theater Bremen).

The cosmopolitan and composer Gershon Kingsley died in New York on 10 December 2019.