BY TARA DUBLIN
And if you don’t believe it, you clearly haven’t been paying attention for the last few decades. From Drake to Doja Cat to the Dessner Brothers of the band The National (who also have worked with Taylor Swift), Jews are all over the musical spectrum. But one unique voice continues to stand out from the vast field of talent in the Tribe, and it belongs to the lead singer of the band Disturbed.
That’s right: not only do Jews rock, we rock HARD.
One listen to Disturbed’s brilliant cover of Simon and Garfunkel’s “The Sounds of Silence” (which also adds to the Cool Musical Jews factor) and you know you’re in the company of greatness from the moment you hear lead singer David Draiman’s interpretation. Originally trained to be a cantor (nu?), Draiman’s full control and command makes for a compelling listen. But it’s even more intense when you watch the band perform it live.
A former cantor might seem like the least likely guy to front a metal band, but David Draiman has never fit into your typical Nice Jewish Boy mold. Born in New York in 1973, Draiman was raised by non-observant Jewish parents who still chose to send him to Orthodox schools. His father, YJ, worked as a real estate developer and small-business owner before he was arrested for embezzlement and sent to prison when Draiman was 12 years old. He later ran for mayor of Los Angeles and moved the family around the country; David attended different Jewish schools in Chicago and Milwaukee as well as L.A, and took cantorial training lessons despite feeling “resentful” about his Jewish education.
Draiman had a difficult few years in his teens, dabbling in heroin and attempting suicide not long after his girlfriend had taken her own life. After surviving his near-death experience, Draiman quit heroin and spent a year in Israel studying at a Yeshiva before returning to the United States in 1992.
Draiman considered a career in law after graduating from Loyola University, but has said he decided that “lying for a living and protecting criminals” wasn’t the life he wanted for himself. Never one to be pinned down, he then got an administrator’s license and spent five years running his own healthcare facility before joining Disturbed as their frontman, which then propelled the band to its greatest successes. The same man who once chanted the Torah and is fluent in Hebrew is the same man who wrote some of Disturbed’s most successful singles, such as “Stupify”, “Down with the Sickness”, “Indestructible”, and “Inside the Fire”.
Draiman has also really leaned into his cultural Jewishness this year by moving his family from Hawaii to Florida, as he recently revealed to a fan on Twitter. Unapologetically political–he has called himself “liberal about everything issue-based” and “a very, very strong supporter of Israel forever and for our people”–Draiman isn’t at all shy about holding both parties accountable and says he prefers small government. He also has no problem calling out other musicians for their politics; in 2019, for example, he slammed ex-Pink Floyd legend Roger Waters “and his Nazi comrades” for their demands to boycott Israel. That same year, Disturbed made their live debut in Israel and performed its national anthem, the Hatikva.
There is also that practical side to Draiman that all Jewish parents seem to have. Asked by a fan why he sought “the humidity” and Florida’s ultra-conservative governor Ron DeSantis, the ever-pragmatic singer (who had spoken out about the state’s controversial “Don’t Say Gay” bill) replied: “The schools, the sun, and no state income tax”. In July, Draiman, who supported Bernie Sanders in 2016, commended President Joe Biden for signing an executive order designed to bolster access to abortion in states that are banning it following the court’s ruling in June to overturn the constitutional right to terminate a pregnancy.
Don’t try to pin down David Dramain: he’s a family man, he’s a metal frontman, and he’s a passionate advocate for both American and Israeli Jews. Best of all, Disturbed is still making new music and will play several festival dates this fall.