When Dee Snider and Leslie West Celebrated Passover on TV
The Passover Seder is a sacred Jewish tradition.
It’s also totally metal!
Or at least that’s what executives at VH1 Classic thought when, on April 24, 2005, the network aired Matzo and Metal: A Very Classic Passover.
If it seems like a strange idea, well, it is. But first consider that dozens of rock and metal gods are Jewish (see: David Lee Roth, Geddy Lee, Bob Dylan, Lou Reed, Joey Ramone, Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley). Second, remember that Metallica wrote thrash masterpiece “Creeping Death” after taking in Cecil B. DeMille’s 1956 epic The Ten Commandments. After watching the scene where the final plague kills the Egyptians’ first borns, bassist Cliff Burton reportedly said, “Whoa, it’s like creeping death.”
Looking to entertain and educate, VH1 gathered some of rock ‘n’ roll’s best headbangers for its Matzo and Metal event. Dee Snider, who is half-Jewish but was raised Christian, played host to the Passover meal with guests Scott Ian (Anthrax), Leslie West (Mountain) and guitarist JJ French, Snider’s Twisted Sister bandmate. The four enjoyed Kosher foods, courtesy of the special’s sponsor Manischewitz, while discussing their experiences in the music industry and their Jewish heritage (or lack there of, as Snider admittedly didn’t grow up in the faith). And they had a lot of stories.
In a tale that had nothing to do with the Book of Exodus and everything to do with rock, West talked about how dropping acid at a Cream concert convinced him to start his own band. But West didn’t only regale viewers with tales about tripping to “Sunshine of Your Love.” (After seeing the band, he turned to his brother and said, "Oh, boy, I really gotta practice.") The six-string legend also used his acoustic guitar and some wicked slide to accompany his blessing of the wine, an integral part of the Passover Seder.
Those looking for the divine during Matzo and Metal would be sorely let down — Elijah figured into a few jokes. But the special carved out time to discuss how music and storytelling play a key role in the dinner ceremony. It also allowed French to share some personal history, explaining his emotions around changing his name to make it less Jewish and performing in Nuremberg (where Hitler once stood spewing anti-Semitic hate), coming off stage as white as ghost.
Despite being charming and funny, the whole show is surprisingly touching.
“I'm definitely not a good Jew,” Ian told the New York Times ahead of the special’s airing. “But it's an incredible story, and it certainly makes me appreciate what my ancestors went through to be here.”
The show also had enough chutzpah to launch a sequel. The following year, the channel put on the half-hour Matzo and Metal II: Back to the Desert, with Ian returning alongside new guests (Biohazard's Evan Seinfeld, Type O Negative's Josh Silver) and VH1 Classic host Lynn Hoffman.