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Howard Friedman, 68: Fair Lawn Teacher, Boptones Founder Remembered

Howard Friedman Photo Credit: Matty Gitkin
With students. Photo Credit: Russell Danziger

FAIR LAWN, N.J.– Howard Friedman wasn't just a beloved Fair Lawn High School teacher and founder of local cover band the Boptones. "He showed us that you're never too old to rock out or dress up," said former student Scott Vedder (Class of '99). "He taught us a lot about teamwork, collaboration and camaraderie in the process."

"Fried," as he was affectionately known, died Sunday . He was 68.

Fried loved Black Sabbath, AC/DC and other rock, but the Boptones also did current hits and popular ballads -- "from Simon & Garfunkel to the B52s and everything in between" -- said Vedder, who created a fundraising page for a Howard Friedman Tribute Scholarship .

The last song of every concert was always Chuck Berry's "Johnny B. Goode," Vedder said. Each graduating senior got to do a verse as a solo.

As a freshman, Vedder sang "Under the Boardwalk" to a cassette tape in Friedman's physics lab after school for his Boptones audition. He sang in the band for four years and eventually became the associate band leader.

"I spent just about every Sunday of my high school years practicing with Fried and my fellow Boptones," he said. "The band was like a family to me, with new members every year."

The group gave back, helping to raise money for the annual marathon and Project Graduation.

Friedman passed the torch to Jeannine Hayek in 1997. Since then, teachers Michael Perrotta, Bill Oliver, and Ilene Levine have been at the helm.

"The Boptones were a defining moment in my life too," Friedman told Vedder, adding that he still thought of the band frequently.

Its alumni include Broadway actress Donna Vivino , Grammy Award winner Ian Axel , and Grammy nominee Regina Spektor .

"The talent that Fried helped to cultivate and the spirit he infused into Fair Lawn High School will live on long after his passing," Vedder said.

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