LISTEN: Sean Ono Lennon Presents “Circles” by Zack Rosen

New single from the late NYC songwriter/musician drops ahead of posthumous EP release

Zack Rosen (Image: Chimera Music)

Zachary Golub Rosen was one of the 2.8 million Americans who suffered with schizophrenia, not only the infliction itself but and the effects of medications meant to treat the illness as well. He died by suicide May 18, 2019, at the age of 30.

A brilliant young man,  Zack grew up in upper Manhattan and attended Fieldston High School and Wesleyan University, where he earned a BA in philosophy in 2011. He was an exceptional musician as well, adept at acoustic and electric bass player and is credited on more than a dozen albums.

“For years, my friend Connor (aka Tongues Unknown) would tell me about a musician he knew named Zack Rosen, who wrote what he said were some of the best songs he’d ever heard,” explains Sean Lennon, a longtime fan of Zack’s. “People gas up their friends all the time so at first I didn’t pay much mind. I even met Zack once at a show but hadn’t heard any of his songs so I didn’t have much to say. I wish I had because looking back I realize it would’ve been a rare chance to speak with a truly brilliant artist.”

Zack was 12 when he began playing guitar and writing instrumental music. But it wasn’t until he was into his twenties did he begin writing his own songs. In his last decade he wrote and recorded over three dozen songs, many of them while in the throes of his illness. He continued to perform with excellence as both a singer-songwriter (under the name Syzygy) and as an accompanist on bass until a few hours before he died. Late that afternoon he performed in a concert celebrating the end of Ramadan with a Turkish orchestra at Columbia University.

“Zack’s songs are astonishing and original,” proclaims Lennon. “He had a peculiar, poetic, and playful mind. His chords and words never let you settle for long—taking a surprise turn here, an about-face there, yet it never feels jarring; you’re always left pleasantly surprised. His world is both familiar and strange. His music is infused with fantasy and surrealism, yet it is always grounded by genuine emotion and real life experience. The only artists I can even loosely compare him to are Syd Barrett, and Tamerlane Phillips, (son of John Phillips), both of whom, like Zack, struggled with mental illness. I think Einstein said something about genius and insanity and there being a fine line between them…”

Zack’s songwriting was largely unknown outside a small circle of friends and family. But thanks to folks like Sean, his music will be made available for the public posthumously. Forthcoming will be an EP and the album (Spring 2023) that Zack started with Connor, the aforementioned Tongues Unknown, who also plays guitar in Sean’s band Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger. Both are being released courtesy of Lennon’s Chimera Music imprint.

“The brain of another human being is perhaps the most inaccessible place there is,” Lennon admits of Rosen. “I don’t know what was going on with Zack, but for whatever reason he wasn’t able to remain in this world, and tragically chose to leave it. He left behind an incredible catalogue of music, much of which was unknown to even his closest friends and family.”

Profits from his music will be donated to several non-profit mental-health organizations, including Brain & Behavior Research Foundation, National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI) and Treatment Advocacy Center

Additionally, Zack’s parents have endowed a music scholarship in Zack’s name at Wesleyan University and established a fund that pays for music internships for students in need as well as adjunct faculty mentorship of music majors’ senior year capstone projects. 

“I can tell you from personal experience that life has a way of blending beauty and tragedy together into a kind of pain-love continuum; you never get much of one without the other,” Lennon states. “Zack’s story is as wonderful as it is horrendous, as terrible as it is joyful. In a way that could be said about any of us I guess, so in that sense his music speaks for everyone.”


AUDIO: Zack Rosen “Circles”


Ron Hart
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Ron Hart

Ron Hart is the Editor-in-Chief of Rock and Roll Globe. Reach him on Twitter @MisterTribune.

2 thoughts on “LISTEN: Sean Ono Lennon Presents “Circles” by Zack Rosen

  • August 18, 2022 at 5:30 pm

    Wow! Enjoy that piece, CIRCLES. Eerily, in a good way, Zack sounds a bit like Sean, as do the instrumental phrasings. Which is to say, the brilliance is so evident. Tragic indeed, for he, his friends and family and so many other families that struggle with a loved ones mental illness and, sadder still when suicide is their last action. What a great thing for Sean to do, and for all such worthy causes in Zach’s memory. I will look forward to the full EP release in the spring. ❤️

  • August 18, 2022 at 8:03 pm

    Through Sadness goodness conquered.
    What a great piece of music you enlightened me to.
    I’ll be sure to look out for more when it hits the Music Shops.
    Stay Safe All.😊


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