From his first cello performance to performing with the world’s best orchestras, Dave Loew is one of the nation’s most successful classical music artists.
Dave Loew has lead a fascinating life. The 72-year-old, who has sold in excess of two million albums worldwide – more than any other Australian classical artist – has just released his new autobiography I am Cellist.
“I was dubbed the ‘Indiana Jones of classical music’ given my renegade attempts to make classical music more accessible by playing popular music scores and modern songs,” Loew said.
“I wanted people to know a beautiful instrument like a cello doesn’t always have to be playing Mozart.”
Loew has now recorded more than a dozen albums, most recently James Bond the Essential Movie Themes ahead of the upcoming Bond film No Time to Die.
Not All Smooth Sailing
In I am Cellist, Loew charts the ups and downs of his incredible 50-year career. This includes his deeply personal mental health battles with PTSD, stress-induced vitiligo and bipolar disorder. Loew wrote most of the book during the COVID period partly to keep his mind active and inspire others who may have also endured tough challenges.
Born in Kenya near the Serengeti Plains into a Jewish show biz family turned poultry farmers, as a young boy Loew, who quickly developed into an extraordinary child prodigy, would practice the cello in the wilds of the farm. His first ‘fan’ was a crippled lion he called Simba who’d sit quietly nearby as Loew played.
Loew began to show early signs of anxiety as a boy, distressed by harrowing tales of family members who’d suffered through the WWII holocaust in his mother’s native Hungary. His beloved grandparents, Mutti and Alfred were captured at gunpoint by the German Gestapo three times and taken to the River Danube to be executed.
“They escaped but lost their two adult sons. My Uncle George was shot dead by the Russian Army in a massacre and my Uncle Ernest died of Typhoid in a prisoner of war camp,” Loew said.
“My anxiety then exacerbated when I was sent to boarding school at 11. I was severely bullied and branded a ‘sissy’ due to my talent for music and was subject to beatings, thrown into ice-cold baths, stripped naked, and forced to clean up horse manure with a toothbrush by older students. It was truly dreadful and manifested in PTSD.”
Working With Legends
Loew decided to become a professional cellist after emigrating to Australia with his family in his late teens. Whilst he found success with the Melbourne and Sydney Symphony Orchestra, Australian Youth Orchestra, and Australian Ballet Opera Orchestra he was again bullied in some professional circles.
On moving to London in the 1970s, Loew joined the illustrious London Symphony Orchestra under the great Andre Previn, working in major venues and recording studios such as Abbey Road and The Royal Albert Hall. Despite his success, a tumultuous marriage and divorce in his late 20s led him to develop the skin condition vitiligo where patches of his olive skin began to turn white.
“One day I was washing my neck and dark pigment from my skin actually came off on the towel. Doctors surmised the ongoing trauma of the relationship had triggered the condition and I tried to cover up the condition by wearing scarfs. I became self-conscious which created even more anxiety.”
Although still dealing with the repercussions of his personal life, the 1980s and beyond were a prolific time for Loew who worked on film scores for some of the world’s most iconic movies such as Superman, The Omen, and The Shining.
“I had the privilege of working with the most legendary music icons including Henry Mancini, John Williams, Shirley Bassey, Julie Andrews, Cliff Richard, Luciano Pavarotti, and Dame Joan Sutherland to name a few. In the 1990s ignored by major record companies, I created my own record label Safari in Classics with self-marketing and made more than 2,000 appearances.”
A Constant Battle
However, the spectre of mental illness was never far away and Loew was eventually diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Having moved back to Sydney in 2012, his depression became more debilitating.
“I was prescribed Lithium but that was a nightmare. There were days when I’d curl up on the sofa of my mother Betty’s Sydney apartment unable to shower or eat properly, contemplating suicide. Mum at 100 is still alive, and she’s been such a champion of mine. So many people battle these conditions, there’s no shame in reaching out to others,” he said.
Due to ongoing therapy and the right medication, Loew now has his condition under control and is a mental health advocate and supporter of the Black Dog Institute, urging anyone in similar circumstances to seek help.
Dave Loew is unquestionably a survivor who has managed to become a worldwide success despite many personal challenges.
Do you know someone who has achieved incredible success despite personal challenges? Let us know in the comments!
I am Cellist by Dave Loew, RRP $29.99, published by Green Hill Publishing, is available through Dymocks, Angus and Robertson, Amazon, Booktopia, Fishpond, Waterstones UK and all good stockists. It is available on Amazon Kindle and also at www.daveloew.com.au