Robert Fripp on How a Rabbi Concisely Cast Complexity with Fewest Words

Robert Fripp at World Financial Center New York December 2010
Legendary Guitarist, Robert Fripp

My brother Robert Fripp, an internationally-acclaimed guitarist and founding and ongoing member of King Crimson, worked in a hotel dance band while going to college. It may interest you to know that he took the job over from a friend who moved to London. That gentleman was Andy Summers, of the famed rock band, The Police.

In recent years, Robert and I have teamed up to deliver presentations throughout the country. I share this story he likes to tell, on what he learned from a rabbi while working in a hotel band in Bournemouth, England, during the late 1960s…

“When I was 18-21, I paid my way through Bournemouth College — where I was studying economics, economic history and political history with a special paper on social conditions, 1850-1900 — by playing at the Majestic Hotel in Bournemouth. The Majestic was a well-known Jewish hotel, run by Fay Schneider,”explained Robert.

Robert and Patricia Fripp
Patricia Fripp Speaking with Her Brother, Legendary Guitarist, Robert Fripp

“The Majestic Dance Orchestra, a quintet, played three nights per week during the winter and four nights in the summer and accompanied visiting cabaret acts on Sundays. In addition to foxtrots, quicksteps and tangos, we would also play weddings and bar mitzvahs. At one bar mitzvah, the chief rabbi addressed the congregation. The directness of his advice and delivery has never left my memory. He spoke very little English, making his point quickly: ‘When you go into your shop, say Hello God! And you will have good business.'”

“This chief rabbi might have said, ‘May we open ourselves to the unconditioned world that our wishing for what is real and true and moves from conscience, hope and faith, acceptance and love, moves into and permeates a world governed by fashion, advertising, taste, habit, inventions, prices of near substitutes, expectations of trends and changes in price, changes in the distribution of income and the quantity and quality of the money supply, that our professional lives might be mediated by the imperatives of necessity and sufficiency.'”

Robert Fripp, Legendary Guitarist with His Wife, Actress, Singer, and Television Host Toyah Willcox
Robert Fripp, Legendary Guitarist with His Wife, British Actress, Singer, and Television Host Toyah Willcox

“But he didn’t say this. Firstly, because his English wasn’t very good – and, secondly, because he wasn’t taking a course in economics at Bournemouth College. What the chief rabbi did was to convey a complex and difficult notion – the possibility of an endless and benevolent grace entering our ungrateful and uncaring world – in 15 words: 12 words of one syllable, 3 words of 2 syllables. (One word, ‘business,’ has three syllables but is pronounced as if having two). ‘When you go into your shop, say, ‘Hello, God! and you will have good business.'” Now, that’s a pithy speech.

Robert is a superb and entertaining speaker and is well-known within the music industry as erudite and very considered in his views. However, you can detect his sense of play, in his recent appearance with his wife Toyah Willcox on ITV’s “All Star Mr & Mrs.” Enjoy the highlights in this video clip: Robert Fripp & Toyah Willcox on All Star Mr & Mrs.

Robert Fripp Spoken Word CDs and Digital DownloadsLearn more about Robert Fripp’s keynote presentations with Patricia Fripp.

Robert Fripp’s spoken-word recordings are available as CDs and MP3 digital downloads.

Executive Speech Coach and Hall of Fame Keynote Speaker, Patricia Fripp is hired by individuals and companies who realize that powerful, persuasive presentation skills give them a competitive edge.