Celebrity Interview: Richard Perlmutter of Beethoven’s Wig

Beethoven. Bach. Mozart. Perlmutter. While the fourth name may not be as familiar as the Great Composers, Richard Perlmutter is making his mark on classical music with Beethoven’s Wig. Designed to make classical music fun for adults and kids, Perlmutter adds cool lyrics to beloved classic compositions and the result is nothing less than spectacular. Celebrity Parents spoke exclusively with the four-time Grammy nominated Perlmutter about classical music, persistence and why his then-3-year-old daughter thought he was Beethoven incarnate.

What was life like prior to Beethoven’s Wig?

Before Beethoven’s Wig, I was just a regular parent. I had produced some radio commercials, sang some jingles and produced some record albums. I had also sung on some Tin Pan Alley albums. I suppose I have always done music in one way or another.

How did Beethoven’s Wig come about?

I really did it for fun, not thinking that anything would come out of it. I released my first album in 2002, but I had actually started working on the idea about five years earlier. I was struggling with the songs; I wasn’t sure how it would work out. I would sing songs over classical music pieces and at the time, I wasn’t sure if it would all blend together. Some of these compositions were not even meant to have lyrics. The first one I did was Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. I played it for someone in the music business and she thought it was a great idea. So I finished the album and got a record deal right after that.

That’s very uncommon in the music business.

And I wasn’t even performing! I put out a record and had no intention of performing. A week after the album came out, I was on NPR. Then I was on The Today Show, singing in Rockefeller Plaza. I didn’t have a group, and I hadn’t performed; so I got four string players from the Philharmonic. It went over really well and I got a lot of really good press. That’s when I started performing. I got four opera singers to sing with me, and it’s been a great learning experience.

Of all musical genres, why did you choose classical music?

I just love music so much, and I pretty much like all kinds. But I’ve always been drawn to classical music. I think I wanted to learn more about it, and thought this could be a cool project for kids and adults to learn about classical music. I wanted lyrics that are informed by the subject of the pieces; they’re not random or instructional. My songs are not about eating your vegetables. It’s about the composer of the piece. Some are fun, and I treat it all with a fair amount of reverence.

I would venture to say that many people find classical music inaccessible or even intimidating. With Beethoven’s Wig, you take away all that.

People will say this opens the door to classical music. I’m a firm believer that lyrics to music makes music more accessible. After all, classical music can be complex. Unlike pop music, which can be easier-to-digest, classical music can be listened to over and over and you can still find something new in it.

How has Beethoven’s Wig evolved over the past five albums?

I think my craft has improved and playing the piano has helped a lot. I’ve been taking lessons for years now. So instead of listening and writing, I played and wrote. With the current album, Beethoven’s Wig Sing Along Piano Classics, I’ve become a more accurate and better singer. And now I’m doing solo performances.

If you had to pick, who would be your favorite composer?

Oh, I couldn’t say! It switches all the time. It changes as I discover things. In the beginning, I was into Beethoven, Mozart and Bach. For this album, I was listening to a lot of Stravinsky. But I love them all.

What do your kids think of Beethoven’s Wig?

When they were younger, my kids Nathan, Sammy and Ruby were really into it. But now they’re old!  [laughs] When Ruby was about 3, she would hear me playing classical music all the time. Once when we were in an elevator together, a Beethoven song piped in and she said, “My dad wrote that!” [laughs] My kids have been in bands, so they’re really into music, too. Lately, they’ve introduced me to more music than I have for them.

I have to say that your style reminds me a bit of Victor Borge.

I love him! His work is sophisticated and fun. I definitely feel that’s where I’m heading, as Beethoven’s Wig gains more and more momentum. I can’t wait to see where this goes, because it’s all truly so exciting.

For more info, please go to www.beethovenswig.com.


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