Interview with Stan Lynch (Stars of David) — ca. 2003

Date: Circa 2003 (publication date)
Interviewer:
Scott Bernarde
Interviewee:
Stan Lynch
Notes:
I found this in a book called Stars of David, which is about Jewish musicians.

Stan Lynch of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
Drummer. Songwriter. Producer. Born May 21, 1955, Cincinnati, Ohio. Co-founded the Heartbreakers in 1975 in Los Angeles, California. The band is best known for the hits “Breakdown,” “Don’t Do Me Like That,” “Refugee,” “The Waiting,” “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around” (with Stevie Nicks), “You Got Lucky,” “Mary Jane’s Last Dance,” and others. Lynch also co-wrote the Don Henley hit “The Last Worthless Evening” as well as the Henley songs “Drivin’ with Your Eyes Closed,” “You Don’t Know Me at All,” “Learn to Be Still” (for the Eagles reunion album); and he co-wrote and co-produced songs on Henley’s album, Inside Job. Lynch also has done session work for Bob Dylan, the Byrds, Aretha Franklin, Stevie Nicks, Jackson Browne, the Mavericks, and Warren Zevon, among others.

During his nearly twenty years with Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, Stan Lynch always packed a hanukkiah for winter concert tours and celebrated Hanukkah on the road.

Whenever Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers hit the road for a long winter tour to deliver Top Forty hits such as “Refugee” or fan favorites such as “American Girl,” drummer Stan Lynch made sure to pack a Hanukkah menorah (Hanukkiah) and candles. In his twenties and thirties, Hanukkah was Lynch’s strongest connection to his Judaism. Alone and far from home, he turned the candle-lighting ceremony into a ritual of great personal significance. He recited the blessings and lit the first night’s candle to honor his mother, and thought of her as the candle glowed. He honored his father, as well as his divorced parents as a couple, with the second night’s candle. The third night’s candle was dedicated to his sister, Jody, who he affectionately calls “the brains of the outfit.” On the fourth night, he remembered all his grandparents. On night five, he thought of all his friends as the candles flickered. Candle number six represented Lynch’s past. Candle seven was dedicated to his present (“I reflected on it and how fortunate I was to be having this moment,” he explains). On the final night of Hanukkah, Lynch considered his future and what it might hold with the lighting of the eighth candle. The Shammas, the candle used to light all the others, represented Lynch. “I pretended it was me,” he says. “I would see that light and say that all those other candles are what I am and all I’ll ever be, and we’re giving each other light. I connected to all those things. It was a life force between us.” During the first few years with the Heartbreakers, Lynch loudly recited the blessings hoping his bandmates would be curious, but no one ever asked any questions. In fact, some band members joked about the nightly candle lighting. So Lynch withdrew a bit, and quietly celebrated Hanukkah in his own special way at the back of the tour bus, or in his hotel room, all over the world. “For years that’s how I survived being on the road,” Lynch says. “It was fun, and it reminded me of home where my dad used to sing Hanukkah songs.”

Stanley Lynch II was born into a vibrant Jewish community in Cincinnati, Ohio. His rather, Stanley, Sr. (both were named after the same deceased relative), was the son of Edward Youngerman, whose two brothers were rabbis. When Edward Youngerman died at age thirty-nine, his wife Mitzi remarried and took the name of her new husband, Nathan Lynch, also Jewish. This transformed Stanley Youngerman into Stanley Lynch. Stanley, Sr. was working for UPS in Ohio when he decided to reinvent himself by becoming a psychology teacher and moving the family, wife Sally, son Stan II and daughter Jody, to Gainesville, Florida. From about 1960 through 1966, the Lynch family moved back and forth from Gainesville to Miami for a variety of teaching jobs because setting down roots in Gainesville. Stan II’s mother, Sally, was a schoolteacher and librarian, and later, an aerobics instructor. Stan grew up in a Reform household that at one brief point included a Christmas tree as well as a Hanukkiah. The family also observed the High Holy Days. Lynch remembers his father studying the holidays as he taught them to his children. The family had neglected observance for a while, and was trying to reconnect. Passover often was spent at the Orthodox home of his great aunt and uncle, Rose and Lou Heines in Coral Gables, Florida. Stan’s religious upbringing, however, was quite informal. He didn’t attend Hebrew school or Sunday school, or officially became a bat mitzvah. But his father did convey to him that being a Jew was something special, and that as a Jew Stan was in good company.

Above all, he was taught that it was paramount for Jews to look after fellow Jews, and that when it comes to struggle, Jews grit it out. “My dad’s theme was the bittersweet human experience,” Lynch says. Lynch knew two other Jewish kids his age in high school. One, Fran Berger, played trumpet in the Gainesville High School Band. The other, Marty Jourard, a sax and keyboard player, eventually became a member of the Los Angeles-based band, the Motels, which garnered Top Ten hits in the early eighties with “Only the Lonely” and “Suddenly Last Summer.” Jourard’s father was Sid Jourard, noted psychologist and author of The Transparent Self. “Jews were a big mystery in Gainesville,” Lynch says. “When people found out I was Jewish they stood back in horror and delight. One guy wanted to shake my hand because he had never shaken a Jew’s hand before.” On the other hand, Lynch experienced more than one instance of anti-Semitism, which he rarely tolerated, and that sometimes meant fighting. After his parents divorced, Lynch, who was about 15, created his own mystique about Judaism and began his special Hanukkiah candle-lighting ceremony. What he didn’t know, he somehow figured out, or filled in with concepts that worked for him.

Music permeated his home throughout his childhood. Lynch’s father played the trumpet; his mother played piano. The first record he remembers being smitten by was the theme from the film, Exodus. “I could listen to it all day,” he says. Broadway show soundtracks, Ray Charles, Count Basie, Dean Martin, and Frank Sinatra also were often played on the family hi-fi. Stan took violin lessons in the first grade, switched to piano in the third grade, tried trumpet a year later, then, following his sister’s lead, took guitar lessons. It appeared doubtful Stan would stick with an instrument long enough to become proficient, until about 1965 when he noticed the drummer on The Tonight Show, Ed Shaunessy. Soon after, he was exposed to renowned drummers such as Buddy Rich, Gene Krupa, and the Beatles’ Ringo Starr. “I think the attraction to drums was visual. I couldn’t take my eyes off the drummer,” Lynch says.

He began drum lessons at age eleven while living in Miami and continued with a new teacher when the Lynches returned to Gainesville. His instructor used fascinating techniques. In fact, it was two years into lessons before Stan actually touched any drums. He practiced playing on a rubber pad and spent a lot of time doing exercises to strengthen his wrists and improve his coordination. That included hanging tea bags from his fingers to learn how to keep them in the right position when playing. By fourteen he was in his first garage band, Styrofoam Soul. The popular regional show band, which included a horn section, even had the distinction of playing for inmates at the women’s prison in Voldosta, Georgia. Lynch hadn’t yet graduated from high school and he was earning a hundred dollars a week in Styrofoam Soul and saving money to buy a car. By seventeen, he was in another popular area band, Road Turkey, with his friend Marty Jourard. As his music career blossomed, Lynch became a bit of a troublemaker and attended three high schools in three years, but graduated on time. He met Tom Petty and several other members of the future Heartbreakers in the early seventies, when Petty asked him to fill in for the drummer in his band, Mudcrutch, for a show in Tampa. Soon after, Mudcrutch relocated to Los Angeles. In 1973, Lynch also headed west to seek his fortune. He floundered in Los Angeles for a couple of years until running into former Gainesville guitarist Mike Campbell and keyboard player Benmont Tench, who had been in Mudcrutch. The three Floridians, along with bass player Ron Blair, joined forced. When Tom Petty reappeared in 1975 with a record deal in band, the rockers formed Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. Though the band appeared on the scene in the midst of a pop music trend labeled New Wave, the Heartbreakers found their inspiration in the folk-rock of Bob Dylan, the chiming guitars of the Byrds, and the belief that rock ‘n’ roll could save your soul. The band’s songs, mostly penned by Petty, were flag-waving anthems of encouragement for social outcasts with lyrics like, “You don’t have to live like a refugee,” “Even the losers get lucky sometime.” “I won’t back down.”

The band released its self-titled debut album in 1976. Though the album included future FM radio staples “Breakdown” and “American Girl,” the record floundered until the band toured England, and the record hit the charts there. “Breakdown,” released in the United States, became a hit in early 1978, more than a year after the album’s initial release. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers were on the rock ‘n’ roll map. While the band’s second album, You’re Gonna Get It!, released in 1978, didn’t include any Top Forty hits, a pair of songs, “I Need To Know,” and “Listen To Her Heart” were FM radio favorites, and solidified the band’s reputation. It was the group’s third album in 1979, Damn the Torpedoes, that catapulted Petty and company to stardom. The recorded included the hits “Don’t Do Me Like That” and “Refugee,” as well as concert favorites “Even the Losers,” and “Here Comes My Girl.”

Throughout the glory, the stardom and the tours, Stan Lynch proudly hit his Hanukkah candles. As a traveling musician, he embraced the idea of the Wandering Jew. “It felt much more ethnic to light the Hanukkah lights when traveling, much more right. It was almost strange to light the menorah at home,” Lynch says. He also read books about Judaism while on the road, with Howard Fast’s The Jews leaving its mark. The book’s melancholy tone reminded him of his father’s lessons about the Jews’ history of struggle.

In 1986, the Heartbreakers embarked on a tour as Bob Dylan’s backing band. The tour began in Israel, and Lynch’s stay there had a profound effect on him. He was moved and sobered by his visit to Yad Vashem, the Holocaust museum in Jerusalem, and disturbed that none of his bandmates asked him about the museum visit, or what it felt like to be a Jew in the Promised Land. He appreciated and understood that inconveniences such as hotel blackouts and armed guards were for his protection; his bandmates didn’t. He was humbled when he used the “I’m-a-rock-star” line to sweet talk some Israeli women only to discover they were pilots in the Israeli Defense Force. Lynch was embarrassed when Tom Petty threw a tantrum in the band’s kosher hotel on Shabbat because the bandleader couldn’t have bacon and eggs and Lynch was angered when he heard a member of the band’s entourage shout from a hotel balcony that it was too bad there were so many Jews in a country as beautiful as Israel. “I was a Jew in Israel with a bunch of guys it didn’t mean squat to, while itwas sort of a pilgrimage for me,” Lynch recalls. Israel’s constant state of emergency and the effort made to safeguard all visitors also humbled him, and it made him realize “what a protected hothouse flower” he had been as a rock star.

After the tour, Lynch began looking to branch out. He did more songwriting and session work, something all the band members had become known for between touring and making their own records. Over the years, Lynch had played drums on albums by T-Bone Burnett, Stevie Nicks, Jackson Browne, Bob Dylan, the Eurythmics, and Aretha Franklin.

In 1989, Lynch rekindled a working relationship with a fellow Jew that endures. Danny Kortchmar, one of the music industry’s most fabled songwriters, session guitarists, and producers, invited Lynch to work on Don Henley’s solo album, The End of the Innocence. Lynch had worked with the pair a few years earlier, co-writing “Driving with Your Eyes Closed” for Henley’s 1984 album, Building the Perfect Beast. This time, however, Lynch’s role was dramatically increased to include writing, producing, and playing throughout the album. His contribution included co-writing the hit “The Last Worthless Evening.” The following year, his song “Love That Never Dies” was one of four new songs recorded by the Byrds for the band’s retrospective boxed set. He also played drums on Byrd Roger McGuinn’s solo album Back from Rio. In 1991, the Heartbreakers released another record, Into the Great Wide Open, and followed that in 1993 with a “greatest hits” collection that included a pair of new songs.

Lynch said “Shalom” to Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers in 1994, leaving to pursue songwriting and record production. That year the Lynch-Henley-penned “Learn to Be Steel” was one of four new songs recorded for the Eagle’s reunion album, Hell Freezes Over. Since the early nineties, Lynch has also collaborated with Nashville acts and had his songs recorded by the Mavericks, Restless Heart, and Matraca Berg. He worked with rockers Meredith Brooks and Eddie Money, and in 1995 worked with Henley and Kortchmar again on a “greatest hits” collection that included a pair of new songs he co-wrote. In 2000, he co-wrote, co-produced, and played on the lion’s share of Henley’s album, Inside Job.

Looking back at his nearly twenty years on the road with the Heartbreakers, Lynch credited Judaism with helping to ground and mature him in the crucible of rock ‘n’ roll. “There are certainly some parallels in Jewish history that can help you understand your career in terms of patience, perseverance, discipline, and graciousness,” Lynch says. Around the time he left the Heartbreakers, Lynch, with the encouragement of his girlfriend Michelle Ganeles, began delving deeper into his Judaism. He even considered having a bar mitzvah and discussed it with a rabbi. The rabbi’s response was heartwarming. “He answered that just by the virtue of my asking, and ‘living as you have, you are a bar mitzvah,'” Lynch recalls. Lynch didn’t go through the ritual of a bar mitzvah, but he did join Temple Bet Yam in St. Augustine, Florida. “It’s always painful when I leave the synagogue,” Lynch says, “because I feel if I did more, I’d know more. It’s a mixed bag of guilt and joy.”

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