12-inch, A Library
Yes, this is Dr. Emanuel H. Bronner of Dr. Bronner’s Pure-Castile Soap. His story is fascinating. Born in 1908 in Heilbronn, Germany of the German-Jewish Heilbronner family of soap makers, Emanuel learned his trade of soap making and earned a degree in chemistry. Emigrating to the USA in 1929, he dropped the Hiel from his name due to associations to Nazism. He begged his parents to come with him but they did not and were eventually killed in the Holocaust at Auschwitz and Theriesenstadt. He continued his trade as soap maker eventually creating the Dr. Bronner’s soap we know today. He adopted the label “Doctor” to his name. In the mid 1940’s, either while at the University of Chicago, invited by a student group, or not invited by a group, or on a street corner, Dr. Bronner was arrested for speaking his “Moral ABC” (some reports say vehemently) and institutionalized at the Elgin State Insane Asylum. After shock therapy treatments, Bronner escaped from the asylum. He blamed his eventual blindness on these treatments.
His soap business grew, with his famous label espousing the tenets of “Moral ABC” and “All One God Faith”. He worked toward what is now Green ideology, with his business focusing on ecological awareness and sharing profits with workers. It continues to this day.
“Sisters & Brothers” is a compilation of Dr. Bronner’s beliefs in achieving Moral ABC. Influenced by the writings and teachings of Rudyard Kipling, Thomas Paine, Hillel the Elder who supposedly taught the teenage Jesus, Mohammed, Jesus Christ, Confucius, Buddha…. , he came up with his philosophy of All One God Faith as the only way to achieve harmony on earth. These recordings made between 1968 and 1988 on “a variety of home recording devices” (i.e. tape recorders), show a man determined, obsessed even, with getting this point across of helping others, showing kindness, sharing, as a means to cure all. What is wonderful about these recordings, though, is the way they were made, and his tone. These are done on tape recorders so we constantly hear the clicking on and off of the recorder. There is some background noise and several of the selections start off or end with selections of, I think, Strauss, even once or twice with Dr. Bronner whistling and then testifying. And the testifyiing: his cadence is dynamic, taking on an almost Hitleresque Nazi tone. There is a dynamism, an affect, a determination that almost crosses over into demanding the listener. Screw free choice – you will do it. There is repetition: Moral ABC is stated repeatedly. so basically, not that it’s a problem, but Dr. Bronner had some mental health issue stuff going on, right? From the outsider art presentation style of his famous label, to manic proselytezing, to institutionalization…. But whatever, he made it work and his product run by the family continues to work in positive directions. Listen, learn, convert, follow, listen, learn, convert, follow, listen, learn, convert, follow, listen, learn…….