In what is surely one of the most dramatic losses of facial hair since Richie Tenenbaum's, Hasidic reggae star Matisyahu shaved his beard yesterday, announcing both his distance from Orthodox Judaism and, tacitly, a marketable gimmick.
Matisyahu tweeted the following:
"No more Chassidic reggae superstar… At a certain point I felt the need to submit to a higher level of religiosity… to move away from my intuition and to accept an ultimate truth… I am reclaiming myself. Trusting my goodness and my divine mission."
Matisyahu, born Matthew Paul Miller, was raised Jewish, though not Orthodox. He apparently spent some time following Phish (!) around the country and taking hallucinogens, before joining the Lubavitch school of Hasidic Judaism and renaming himself Matisyahu at the age of nineteen.
Matisyahu managed to transcend the initial shock of his "gimmick" by actually having talent to back up the cognitive disconnect his music presented. It didn't hurt that he surrounded himself with a series of talented collaborators, from New York avant-garde uber-producer Bill Laswell to legendary reggae production team Sly and Robbie.
I have so many questions! One, is he moving away from Orthodox Judaism into, a different religion, like say, Unitarianism? Two, why do I really care, when the last time I listened to Matisyahu's music was in 2006? And three, what does Rick Rubin think about this?