Gary Morris is back. The "Wind Beneath My Wings" singer, who placed a slew of hit singles on the Billboard Country Songs chart throughout the 1980s, has taken a self-imposed sabbatical from the music business for much of the past decade. However, that break is over.
The singer has just released a new album, "Faith And Freedom," and he has also announced a return to another of his loves -- the stage. Morris will appear in the musical "Soul Doctor: Journey of a Rock-Star Rabbi" beginning on Christmas Day in Miami Beach at the Colony Theatre.
In a recent interview with Billboard.com, Morris talked about the production. It's the story about a man who is called the 'Singing Rabbi,' Shlomo Carlebach, from Germany, who moved to Brooklyn to escape the Nazi invasion of Vienna. "He was twelve or thirteen when his family came, and it's a show about his conviction as a rabbi, and his loss of conviction as a rabbi, and the transference of his conviction about the world and about love, and loving your fellow man -- whether you are black or white, Jewish, Christian, or Muslim, about that as an overall picture. That's what Shlomo Carlebach was about. It was against the wishes of his family. He left all that, went to California, and played with the Grateful Dead, and made melodies and made records."
"Soul Doctor" marks the first stage work from Morris in over two decades, having previous roles in "Les Miserables" and "La Boheme."
What led him back to the stage? "It's about what's going on in the world as much as anything. It's also about what's going on in this country -- all the right wing, left wing stuff, and the wedge that separates us, and not the glue that binds us together. This work really highlights that -- about a father that loves his son more than you could ever imagine, and a son who loves his father that much, but is willing to follow his own path. That path was about loving."
Morris said the role turned out to be very timely. "I had just done a record that encompasses about twenty years of my entire life. The title cut of it is 'Faith and Freedom.' A key line in it is 'We're all holy in his sight.' I finished that song, and the script arrives -- about a Jewish Rabbi. I know very little about the Jewish faith. I start researching, and I asked the producer why they came to me. He said they were on YouTube looking at different artists. Someone in the office said 'You need to find someone like Gary Morris, because he goes out alone with just a guitar. They found a version of me doing 'Wind Beneath My Wings,' and said 'We don't need someone like Gary Morris. We need Gary Morris.'"
When asked about the differences between playing his music or working in a stage musical, he didn't miss a beat.
"When I go out and do a concert… I can stop, start, go at any tempo I want for as long as I want. My experience on the stage was as follows; You are part of a bigger team, and you must be there for them. Without the teamwork, there's no show. I could get star billing, and the public could hear that it's all about Gary Morris, but it's about the cast. That's one thing I found when I went to New York before. If they are picked to be in a show, they are top drawer -- whether they are dancing, singing, or acting. That's what drew me back in."
As far as the future plans for "Soul Doctor," Morris says "We don't have a schedule past the first four weeks and a PBS television special. I'm told that they are talking about going to Toronto for a few weeks, and then moving into New York. We're so busy as a cast right now, getting ready to open, and I'm not with them. I had four concerts I couldn't cancel."
Morris also tells us that he's working on some new music. "The record I'm working on right now follow suit with 'Plain Brown Wrapper,' he says, referring to his classic 1986 acoustic disc. "The concept of the album is that I play guitar, and I have one guest instrument on each song other than me. It's how I go out and play. Fortunately, I can go out and sing a lot of songs just me and my guitar, and it seems to work."