Recording star Rami Kleinstein made the move from his native New York at age 8 in 1970 to the desert storm that was the Mideast at a time when things, according to Dylan, were a'changin'.
"I grew up influenced by the Beatles, a time of flowers in your hair -- and you take that with you," he says.
Kleinstein's take on those early sounds helped propel him to where he is today: at the top of the music mountain as one of Israel's leading composers/singers/musicians, who's been likened to Billy Joel and Elton John.
Piano Man of the sand dunes? You don't have to go there; he's coming here, headlining Yom Ha'atzmaut -- Israeli Independence Day -- with a May 17 concert at Penn's Landing.
The celebration, from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m., marks Israel's 61 years of independence and 100 years since the founding of Tel Aviv, Philadelphia's sister city. In addition to the free concert, the outdoor festivities at Penn's Landing will include a marketplace featuring Israeli crafts and food.
Bringing Kleinstein here is a coup for the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia's event, as he captures so clearly the musical muse of the land of milk and honey as the composer of "Harbe Panim" ("Many Faces").
"As an Israeli, I appreciate the many faces Israel has had over the years; any kind of institution or nation [with integrity] has that," he says. "Many faces? Israel's are tenfold."
The one to be celebrated this Sunday will be the birthday face of a Middle Eastern nation at middle age, and who better to wish it well than one who has done so well as an émigré and emerged into Israel's top pop scene at 47.
He acknowledges that "the art has changed since I started at age 25. Music evolves, but as an artist, you have to be true to yourself."
Truth be told, integrity has been instrumental to his outlook: "If I'm still working, then I guess I'm still relevant."
Relish the thought: He's had albums that have reached triple platinum, and he has doubled his fan base over the years, all with that singular sensation that is his singing voice and songbook.
"When I started out," says the one-time Israel Radio and Television "Singer of the Year," "I wrote some very good songs, yes, but I was looking for a deeper connection."
Kleinstein unplugged? MTV should be so lucky; he found his outlet in Israeli audiences.
And they found him through his quirky sense of humor. In fact, Kleinstein upped the ante with his YouTube treatments, none funnier perhaps than "Hanashim Shelanu" ("Our Women"), in which the clean-domed singer dons an outrageous wig and wigs out à la a Jewish Jagger (www.youtube.com/watch?v=VJkvvDYAsNk ).
And once he started expanding beyond his natural base and performing more -- going to Haifa, Eilat, Jerusalem -- he says that he "not only made contact with the audiences; they made contact with me. That rapport, that interaction meant a lot to my work."
It was everything he wanted, agrees the man whose "Kol Ma She Tirtzi" ("Everything You Want") was not wanting for fans as it climbed Israel's charts, going platinum after only 10 days.
These days, the artist and composer who helped Israel's sensation of a singer Rita reach the top tips his hat to his ex-wife as an Israeli icon as well.
"We are not newcomers" to the scene, he acknowledges. But "experience counts."
What will Kleinstein croon when it comes to the big "6-1"?
"I wish Israel and its social groups get together," he says, because isn't life's perfect music the sound of harmony?
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