The turbulent existence of Jewish metal icon David Draiman

From a conservative ultra-Orthodox upbringing, through drug addiction and heavy losses, all the way to rock stardom as Disturbed lead singer, now recognized as 'the premier metal vocalist of the 21st century'
Gilad Meiri|
As the premier rock metal band of their time, at least in the Unites States, Disturbed's ascension to the top of the charts meant that more light would be shed on what makes this band tick.
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  • Perhaps the main catalyst to the renewed interest in the band came about seven years ago, when they released their "Immortalized" album. While it was mainly described as "an album for purists", it contained one notable exception. Track number 11 out 13: Sound of Silence.
    Originally written and released by folk rock duo Simon & Garfunkel in 1964, Disturbed's epic-symphony-type interpretation set the band on a new course, and brought them a level of online recognition that simply did not exist before. More specifically, it shed a light on vocalist David Draiman.
    Rock critics noted that "it's much more than a cover, but rather a thoughtful, emotional reimagining that dives deep into the meaning of the words the original artists wanted to convey."
    "It was a pretty decent period of time when we looked for something to cover," said Jewish lead vocalist David Draiman in an interview with online rock music magazine LoudWire.
    "We looked through 80s hits, with bands like Genesis and U2, but then I offered we go further back. Mikey (Wengren, band drummer) suggested the Sound of Silence, and it immediately resonated with everybody. Originally we thought we'd make it aggressive and upbeat, but it was Dan Donegan, lead guitarist, that suggested we make it more ambient and ethereal."
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    Draiman is noted for his raspy delivery
    Draiman is noted for his raspy delivery
    Draiman is noted for his raspy delivery
    Known up until that point as a raspy, dominant vocalist that puts his aggressive vocal style in the forefront of every song, the Sound of Silence reacquainted David Draiman to the rock world as a multifaceted, highly versatile artist that transcends the one-dimensional and glides along with the delicate notes, inserting his familiar raspy vocal profile only in the moment that meets emotional necessity.
    Draiman was born to Jewish parents, Miriam and Yehuda Draiman, in Brooklyn in 1973. Rejecting the notion his father's supposed political ambitions made young David do something exceptional. "The rug of success was pulled from underneath my father when I was 12 years old, when he was sent to prison. The family struggled after that," Draiman said.
    Always with a certain rebellious streak, Draiman was kicked out of the Wisconsin Institute for Torah Studies. "The straw that broke the camel's back was that they found a copy of GQ magazine under my bed, but that wasn't all of it. I also set fire to a rabbi's van," he said.
    Draiman's girlfriend took her own life when he was just 16, which helps explain why many of the band's songs revolve around loss and dealing with mental anguish. Admitting he was already a drug addict before it happened, that incident took a heavy toll, and exacerbated an already delicate emotional outlook of the his own life experiences.
    "On New Year's Eve, when I was 18, I woke up under a sign with nothing but my jeans. No shirt, no shoes, not knowing how I even got there. My parents called the cops to look for me. That was my moment of clarity."
    Admitting he always had an interest in criminal law and even taking LSATs, he nevertheless rejected the idea of going to law school, saying, "I didn't want to lie for a living and protect criminals. I've seen people I knew in law and they were very unscrupulous about it, but I thought honor and morality mattered," he said, before punting the point. "I gave a shit."
    He later served as the assistant administrator for a nursing home and from there went on to run a facility called "Ambassador Nursing and Rehab" in Chicago. Curiously, he was ultimately fired for using office resources to send out promotional material for his band Disturbed, noticeably absent of sufficient funds at the time to do it on their own.
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    His great grandfather was the head cantor for a major Jerusalem synagogue
    His great grandfather was the head cantor for a major Jerusalem synagogue
    Draiman in Jerusalem
    (Photo: Instagram)
    Noted mainly for his exceptional vocal abilities, Draiman attributes much of them to his great-grandfather who was the head cantor of the largest synagogue in Jerusalem, providing sermons on a regular basis, some of which is conveyed in a traditional Jewish musical tone.
    That did not mean, however, that his family approved of his decision to become a rock star. "It wasn't until three or four years into my career that they came to see me perform for the first time. It's funny how success seems to validate things," he said with a smirk.
    Another event in his life that could shed some light on where Draiman gets his unique vocal profile from, is the surgery he had undergone to repair a valve in this throat that was ejecting acid onto his vocal cords. "The valve at the top of the esophagus, which is supposed to control the flow of acid and prevent it from going too high up, had completely herniated.
    "Since then, however, the repair job, called an endoscopic synch, had manage to rupture. That said, the surgery did repair my vocal cords and increased my vocal range to an extent. Today I deal with it with proper diet and keeping my body elevated when I sleep."
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