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Jimmy Barkan, singing yogi, stretches out on new EP

Fort Lauderdale yoga master Jimmy Barkan stretches out on new EP.

One facet of yoga involves reconnecting with the past, and Jimmy Barkan is following his own teachings.

Barkan, whose trademarked Barkan Method includes studios in Fort Lauderdale and Boca Raton, is returning to professional singing. He'll perform Thursday, April 9, at QBar Burgers and Blues, next to his yoga studio in Fort Lauderdale.

"I feel some pressure, because I know some of my students are coming, but music just keeps calling me back," Barkan says. "Hopefully, I can lift up their butts in the morning and sing to those same butts at night."

Barkan, 60, says he has been singing onstage since he was 8 in his hometown of Pittsburgh, graduated from New York University after training with vocal coach Don Lawrence (who later taught Christina Aguilera and Lady Gaga) and finished second in auditions for the lead in a Broadway version of "Grease." Patterning himself after Bobby Darin, Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr. and Tony Bennett, he recorded an album in 1977 on Pittsburgh-based Decco records, titled "Love in Your Life."

Barkan moved to Los Angeles in his 20s to pursue a career in music, put a Top 40 band together and hoped to land in Las Vegas. He kept at it for eight years, "but that door didn't open," he says.

During that time, he studied hot yoga under Bikram Choudhury, founder of Bikram Yoga, and their friendship grew. The yoga form of 26 postures — done the same way, every time — branched across the world, and Barkan became Choudhury's right-hand man, training other teachers.

Barkan and Choudhury stayed pals even when Barkan moved to Fort Lauderdale in 1982 to be near his parents. Barkan kept singing, performing at such venues as Mr. Laff's on Federal Highway in Fort Lauderdale, but he also opened a yoga studio. About 150 students visit his studios in Boca Raton and Fort Lauderdale, and he travels the world to teach his methods.

He had a nasty parting with Choudhury in 2002 because his Barkan Method was too similar to Bikram's trademarked series, but new students flocked to his studio, where they practiced in a 92-degree room. Barkan gave up music. Choudhury, meanwhile, is being sued by six women who claim he sexually assaulted or raped them.

In recent years, Barkan made monthly trips to Orlando, where he got hooked on the American Idol Experience at Disney's Hollywood Studios theme park. Barkan says he made it through auditions and onto the stage about 15 times to sing in the 1,000-seat studio.

"Being in front of that audience again brought back a desire to get back up there and sing," he says.

In 2013, he was a finalist in the Palm Beach Pop Star competition, earning him the opportunity to "You Don't Bring Me Flowers" with Gloria Loring (Robin Thicke's mother) and the Palm Beach Pops at the Kravis Center for the Performing Arts in West Palm Beach.

Last year, he recorded an EP of cover songs that includes "Smoke From a Distant Fire," which the Sanford-Townsend Band released in 1972. His wheelhouse is crooning, a la Michael Buble and Harry Connick Jr., he says.

"No Krishna Das," he says, referring to a chanter known as "the Rock Star of Yoga."

His new single, a remake of Timi Yuro's 1963 single "What's a Matter Baby," has drawn 25,000 plays on YouTube. His Jimmy Barkan Music Facebook Fan page has about 2,000 likes, more than his yoga page that was created five years earlier.

"I know the songs I sing are sort of a dichotomy to yoga, but that's the music that has always touched me," he says. "I'll always be singing.

Jimmy Barkan will perform 7:30 p.m. Thursday, April 9, at QBar Burgers and Blues, 2376 N. Federal Highway, in Fort Lauderdale. Call 954-565-2299. See Barkan's schedule at JimmyBarkan.com.

Nsortal@SouthFlorida.com

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