Shedding lightShedding light

Maccabeats honor MLK in new video collaboration

Jewish a cappella group teams up with Naturally 7 to cover James Taylor song

Renee Ghert-Zand is a reporter and feature writer for The Times of Israel.

Members of the Maccabeats and Naturally 7 in 'Shed a Little Light' video. (YouTube)
Members of the Maccabeats and Naturally 7 in 'Shed a Little Light' video. (YouTube)

The Maccabeats have released a new video, their first in honor of a non-Jewish holiday. Ahead of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day on January 18, the a cappella group collaborated on a moving cover of James Taylor’s “Shed A Little Light” with renowned a cappella group Naturally 7.

“We grew up listening to Naturally 7, one of the best groups around, and we had been talking with them about doing something for a over a year,” said Maccabeats founding member and musical director Julian Horowitz.

“The a cappella community is really friendly… It was an absolute pleasure working with Naturally 7. They’re not only creative and talented but also total mensches and very easygoing,” Horowitz told The Times of Israel.

Like the Maccabeats, Naturally 7 originated in New York. Founded in the late 1990s, the group is known for its “vocal play,” in which its members “become” musical instruments through the use of their voices. Naturally 7 has performed internationally, sometimes appearing with major artists like Michael Bublé and Coldplay. They recorded numbers with Quincy Jones and Ludacris for their most recent album.

The video of the two groups singing together was filmed in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC, the site of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s famous 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech. The speech is referenced at the beginning of the video.

“We visited the Lincoln Memorial after a recent show in DC and realized that we couldn’t film this anywhere else. A friend of a friend of a friend put me in touch with someone at the National Parks Service who was very helpful in setting up guidelines and getting us the proper permits,” Horowitz said.

One can hear echoes of King’s oratory in the lyrics of Taylor’s song. It expresses ideas of love, hope, freedom and universal brotherhood. While Horowitz said he wasn’t aware of any direct relationship between the 1963 speech and the song, he emphasized how moved he and the others involved in the video were by the lyrics.

The new video is a clear step away from the group’s until now all-Jewish menu. However, said Horowitz, “James Taylor’s poetry and storytelling is certainly powerful in it’s own right.”

“We’re deeply committed to our Jewish Heritage, but we’re also proud American citizens and citizens of the world. It’s very special for us to celebrate the life and work of a man who gave the world so much,” said Horowitz about this new video.

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