Remembering Joey

Remembering Joey

Hari Newmark grew up with Joey Fennel. They went to Woodland Junior High and Fayetteville High School together. He was there when “Joey” became “Joseph,” a step toward “breaking away from being a kid to becoming a man,” Newmark says. And he remembers when Fennel’s stage name became “Joseph Israel,” a reflection of both his music and his spirituality.

In fact, Israel introduced Newmark to the woman he would marry, Rochelle Bradshaw, and Newmark got to see his best friend and his wife perform together in Israel’s Jerusalem Band.

But perhaps the most important time Newmark spent with Israel and his family was during February of this year, part of the five weeks between when Israel was diagnosed with terminal cancer and when he died at the age of 40 on March 2, surrounded by his family — wife Kristy and his children, Cypress, Rebekah and Chavah.

On April 15, Newmark and Bradshaw will be hosts of a tribute to Joseph Israel and a fundraiser for his widow. A family memorial will follow sometime this summer, but this show, happening at 6 p.m. at George’s Majestic Lounge in Fayetteville, is all about the music.

“A lot of people in Fayetteville knew him as Joey,” says Newmark, “but the musical world knew him as Joseph Israel — and he left his mark. His music will survive forever.”

Israel found his music and his spiritual calling on family trips to Jamaica, remembers his dad, longtime Fayetteville restaurateur Joe Fennel.

“We got to see Bob Marley’s house and his Tuff Gong studio, and I’m sure the impact of that was embedded in Joey’s brain and was a big part of him going back there,” Fennel says. “It was a dream come true when he got to go and work at the studio.”

Newmark credits Bradshaw for helping Israel break into the music scene in Jamaica, but he and Fennel agree that Israel earned his place in reggae.

“The most important thing for his music career was the fact that as a white man and an outsider, for him to be accepted in Jamaica was a testament to who he was,” Fennel says. “All those great musicians loved his message and loved him as a person. He got a lot of support from the Jamaican community. He earned their respect and had their friendship.”

“Beyond that, he plucked some of the best musicians Jamaica had to offer to record with him,” Newmark adds. “That speaks highly for who he was.”

Raised Baptist, Israel sought out his own spiritual path, his father and his best friend agree.

Israel’s religion combined Judaism with the belief that Jesus was the Son of God, Newmark explains.

“He studied Hebrew. He spoke Hebrew. He kept all the Hebrew holidays. But Jesus was still the Messiah,” Newmark says. “He was a scholar of the scriptures.”

“He took his spirituality very, very seriously,” Fennel adds. “He kept searching for the truth that he could hang his hat on. That became the most important thing in his life. He was pretty intense about that stuff — but also very loving, always ready to talk with people about his beliefs.”

Newmark adds that Israel died the way he lived — with dignity.

“When it came down to it, he seemed so ready and prepared and not scared. It was such a blessing for me to be there with my best friend. It was a profound experience.”



A Joseph Israel Tribute

WHEN — 6-10 p.m. April 15

WHERE — George’s Majestic Lounge in Fayetteville

COST — $10 donation

INFO — Email

BONUS — Performers include the Jerusalem Band, Rochelle Bradshaw, Michael Walker, Jeff Kearney, the Irie Lions, Butterfly and Darren Crisp.

Categories: Cover Story