Ivan Wilzig: From Bank Board to Billboard to College Board
Banker–turned–singer, reality TV celebrity and social activist Ivan Wilzig has led a life that Hollywood movies are made of. After twenty years of working in his family’s multi-billion dollar commercial banking business and serving on the bank’s Board of Directors, Ivan left the banking world, reinvented himself as recording artist Sir Ivan, and against all odds became a Top Ten Billboard Magazine Recording Artist. Most recently, he joined the Board of Directors for the College of Communication, Architecture + the Arts (CARTA) at Florida International University (FIU).
The journey began when Sir Ivan played a demo tape for Dave Jurman, Senior Executive Director of Dance Music at Colombia Records. Dave was so impressed with Ivan’s talent and enthusiasm that he immediately introduced him to Ernie Lake, half of the two–time Grammy nominated producer team known as Soul Solution. Sir Ivan chose as his first single the iconic John Lennon song “Imagine,” as the lyrics and message closely mirrored his own beliefs of creating a world without violence and hatred. The reason these lyrics resonated so strongly with Ivan is because his father was an Auschwitz concentration camp survivor and 59 Jewish family members had been murdered during the Holocaust. The single was signed by Tom Silverman, the owner of Tommy Boy Records, released on September 4, 2001, exactly one week before the horrendous September 11th tragedy, and broke the Top 40 on the Billboard Club Play Chart.
It was the first time in history that a recording artist had converted the slow rock ballad “Imagine” into a high energy dance record. In fact, it was the first time that a recording artist remade any Beatles or John Lennon ballad into a techno dance record. In combining techno tracks with hippy lyrics, Sir Ivan had developed a new style he called “Technippy.” Incredibly, thirty years after Lennon’s original release, Sir Ivan had made the song popular again for a new generation.
Inspired by the success of “Imagine”, he decided that all of his music would be about universal love, human rights and peace. The ’60s were both the most evolutionary and revolutionary period in history – when civil rights, women’s rights and gay rights were bravely fought for. The fight for these rights is still being waged today and Sir Ivan is leading the battle through his music and his non-profit organization, The Peaceman Foundation (http://sirivan.com/the-peaceman-foundation) which was created in 2005 to fight hatred and violence. Since then, Sir Ivan and The Peaceman Foundation have donated over $500,000 to various charities, including many LGBT charities, anti-bullying charities, and organizations that help those directly affected by violence, such as those who suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). In addition, Sir Ivan has spent well over a million dollars on producing songs and music videos that champion LGBT rights.
Sir Ivan is known as “Peaceman” because he looks like a superhero when performing in a cape with an ornate peace sign centered on the back. He has been spreading his message of positivity, acceptance and goodwill around the world for over fifteen years.
After various degrees of success with other songs on the Billboard Charts, Sir Ivan finally got the recognition from the music industry he was seeking when, for the first time, he went Top Ten on Billboard’s Dance Club Songs Chart with his hit single “Hare Krishna” in 2011, sharing the chart with superstar performers Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, Jennifer Lopez and Rihanna. After this feat, the momentum never stopped. With his hit single “Live For Today,” Sir Ivan made not one, but two different Top Ten Music Week Magazine Charts in the UK in 2011 and 2012 along with fellow artists Scissor Sisters, Beyonce, Jennifer Lopez, Ed Sheeran, Tiesto, and Florence + the Machine. His first original song that he co-wrote the lyrics to, “La La Land,” also made the Top Ten in UK’s Music Week Chart in 2012, joining such artists as David Guetta, Elton John, and Kylie Minogue. Then he co-wrote lyrics to his anti-bullying anthem, “Kiss All The Bullies Goodbye”, created specifically to address the nation’s teen bullying epidemic and the high suicide rate occurring within the LGBT teenage community. Produced by Paul Oakenfold and featuring Taylor Dayne, the song landed in the Top Ten in UK’s Music Week Chart in 2015, alongside Rita Ora and Chris Brown. Sir Ivan’s dream of becoming a pop star had become a reality.
In 2016, 15 years after Sir Ivan’s original 2001 release of “Imagine,” he remade this song yet again, because the planet had still not learned to live in peace. In light of multiple terrorist attacks around the world, it was the most appropriate time for yet another generation to listen to Lennon’s optimistic lyrics, which offer hope to all people on the planet and a formula for world peace. This release also honored and paid tribute to the iconic John Lennon, who had passed away 35 years ago, on December 8th, 1980.
Sir Ivan and his Peaceman Foundation, are donating all net proceeds from his 2016 release of “Imagine” to ending hatred and violence, and to help those suffering from PTSD. It was co-produced by 2012 Grammy Award winner Omar Akram and the world renowned Peter Rafelson. “Imagine” went # 1 on Serato’s White Label Chart, and Top Ten on UK’s Music Week and DJ Times Charts. Joining him on these various charts were Selena Gomez, Bob Sinclar, Usher, Calvin Harris, Justin Timberlake, Justin Bieber, Sia, Sean Paul, Rihanna, Gwen Stefani, M.I.A. and Imany.
“Imagine” is also the first single off Sir Ivan’s released full-length EDM (electronic dance music) album “Peaceman Shines”. Produced by Laura Ford, this album received great reviews in the clubs. Each of the 10 songs, created by 10 of the world’s best record producers, are all well-known anti-war and peace songs from the ’60s and early ’70s, except for two original songs, co-written by Sir Ivan, that share the same theme.
Sir Ivan’s most recent single, an anthem against gun violence, “I Am Peaceman”, produced by Ali Dee and featuring Debbie Gibson, was released June 7, 2017 and went to # 2 on the DJ Times Dance Chart (Established in 1988, DJ TIMES is America’s first magazine for professional DJs.).
Because of his music success, charitable work and fabulous medieval-style Castle in the Hamptons, he has been featured on TV shows all over the world, and is very popular in France and Germany due to his appearance on numerous programs that have aired there. Stan Lee, the most famous superhero creator of all time, personally selected Sir Ivan to star as a finalist on the NBC owned Sci Fi Channel reality TV series called Who Wants to be a Superhero. Sir Ivan has also made featured appearances on VH1’s The Fabulous Life of the Hamptons, Discovery Channel’s Epic Castles and Bravo’s Chef Roble & Co.
Sir Ivan’s movie experience consists of a major part in a full length documentary, King of the Hamptons, and, a minor role in an independent SAG film, called The Gold and the Beautiful. In addition, a one hour movie about his life, titled SIR IVAN: “I Am Peaceman”, is available on Amazon, Google Play and Vimeo. The film is directed by four-time Emmy® award-winning director Jim Brown, who has also done documentaries on Billy Joel, Pete Seeger, and Peter, Paul and Mary. Sir Ivan is currently in talks with several major production companies discussing the potential for a reality TV show based on his eccentric lifestyle and passionate quest to change the world.
Sir Ivan has made his entry into the Hollywood film finance business as one of the Executive Producers of Freak Show, a full length movie. Freak Show is an adaptation of James St. James’ best-seller of the same name, with cast members Alex Lawther, Bette Midler, Laverne Cox, Abigail Breslin and more, and is directed by Trudie Styler.
Sir Ivan is co-owner of the World Erotic Art Museum (WEAM), the largest privately owned collection of fine art in America. His expertise in this field of art is one of the reasons he was invited by Dean Brian Schriner to join the Board of Directors for the College of Communication, Architecture + the Arts (CARTA ) at Florida International University (FIU). Sir Ivan considers this the highest honor he has received to date.