The Genius of Israeli Music
This blog is about Israeli indie music, but it’s impossible to talk about current Israeli music without acknowledging the past. This week, Israel lost its most influential and beloved singers.
Arik Einstein’s accomplished career spans five decades from the 1960s until today. Arik’s music has accompanied the country throughout most of its history. His songs evoke the Good Old Land Of Israel (Eretz Yisrael HaYeshana VeTovah). He entertained Israel through good times and bad. His deep yet sensitive voice provided the soundtrack for an entire country over a number of generations, and was familiar like a close friend. Throughout his long career, his music was always relevant and up to date, incorporating new artists and different influences while keeping true to his own unique style. He recorded over 500 songs, and 34 albums and collaborated with many of Israel’s premier musicians including Shalom Hanoch, Yehudit Ravitz, Shem Tov Levi, Miki Gabrielov, Aviv Geffen and Peter Roth.
about Arik Einstein
The Early Years
Arik first started performing with Lehakat Tzahal (IDF Band), and upon his release performed in a band called Green Onions with Chaim Topol (who would later star in the film Fiddler on the Roof). Arik released his first solo album in 1960, a four song EP, after which he performed as a soloist under the stage name Ari Goren. After that he was in The Yarkon Bridge Trio together with Yoram Gaon until 1964, but Arik felt that the music that they were performing was similar to Russian ballads or the Beatles and didn’t really constitute a new musical style. During his time with the Yarkon Bridge Trio, Arik still continued to record as a soloist, act and sing in stage productions and on soundtracks. During the 1965 and 1966 song festivals, Arik took first place as a soloist and came in second with the Yarkon Bridge Trio.
Arik put out “I Sing For You,” his first full solo album in 1966. It was influenced by jazz and South American music and integrated the sound of an electric guitar on a few of the tracks. He performed a number of Beatles covers, along with other pop favorites like “The Lemon Tree,” and “The House of the Rising Sun.” But Arik was always looking for new musical influences, and together with Shmulik Krauss and Josie Katz, he would form the first Israeli pop trio, The High Windows. Their song “Yecheskel,” a catchy pop tune released in 1966 about the biblical prophet Ezekiel can still be heard on Israeli radio today.
Collaboration with Shalom Hanoch
In 1967, Arik met with and started to collaborate with a young musician and writer named Shalom Hanoch. The songs that they recorded appeared on a album released in 1968 called “Mazal Gedi” (Aries). At around this time, Arik’s contract with CBS records had expired, allowing him to seek out new business relationships. He started his own production company called Hagar. In the 1969 song festival, Arik’s submission came in next to last, and he decided from that point on that he would never compete in the contest again, and beyond that, he would no longer care about market demands or public expectations. Arik was looking for a new band that would accompany both in the studio and in concert and help him develop a new sound. He was introduced to The Churchills, featuring Miki Gabrielov on bass and Chaim Romano on guitar, and together they would record the first Israeli rock album, “Poozy,” in 1969. This album featured electric guitars with distortion.
Einstein would continue to develop a unique sound together with the talented group of musician he surrounded himself with. In 1970, he released the film “Shablool” which had clips from their own lives and featured Arik Einstein and Shalom Hanoch as themselves. The film and the accompanying soundtrack were both commercial failures at the time, but they marked a turning point in Israeli music. The upbeat sound was heavily influenced by the international pop scene in general and The Beatles in particular. The language and themes, though, were contemporary Israeli: the lyrics of the songs echoed the way that Israelis spoke at the time, rather than attempt some kind of classic Hebrew poetic style. Einstein and Hanoch wrote the bulk of the tracks either individually or together, and Einstein sang lead vocals with Hanoch accompanying with the exception of “The Deeper The Bluer,” where Hanoch sang the lead vocal. Shablool led to the 1970 television series “Lool,” a sketch comedy and music show. Later that year, Arik Einstein and Shalom Hanoch released another album called “Plastelina.” In the end of 1970, Hanoch moved to England for a brief period of time affording Einstein the opportunity to create new musical connections.
After putting out a children’s album in 1971, Einstein collaborated with Miki Gabrielov on “At Avigdor’s Grass.” This album combined rock and roll with romantic music and a Middle Eastern touch. The themes included longing for childhood as seen in the songs, “You and I (Will Change The World)” and “I See Her On The Way to the Gymnasium.” The album cover features a picture of Einstein in the place near the beach in Tel Aviv where they used to practice. There were also allegations of drug use in that location, giving the English translation of the album title more significance. Soon afterwards, his backup band, The Churchills set out for England and again, Einstein had to find a new band, and led to brief collaborations with the rock-jazz fusion band The Platina, and later with the psychadelic rock band Apocalypse. When performing with Apocalypse, the first part of the concert would be Apocalypse songs, and during the second half, the band wolud back up Einstein on his songs.
In 1972, the Churchills returned to Israel and Einstein recorded the album “Jasmine” with them. Later that year he would co-star in the Uri Zohar film, “Peeping Toms.”
In 1973 Einstein re-recorded some old songs in a collection called “Good Old Land Of Israel.” Among the songs were updated versions of “Could It Be That It’s Over?” and “Yoel Moshe Solomon.” The album was a commercial success and coincided with the fourth Lool TV program. Shalom Hanoch returned from England later that year, and joined Einstein in concert. Hanoch would open the concerts playing solo with his guitar and then would stay on and play with Einstein and his band, with the two of them singing “Why Should I Take It To Heart?” together. The two set out to tour together, but with the outbreak of the Yom Kippur war, both were called up for a half year of reserve duty where they would play at army bases throughout the week, leaving only the weekend to play for the civilian crowd. During that period, Einstein and Miki Gabrielov continued working on new material, the fruit of which was the album “Slow Down.” Einstein even managed to find the time to star in Uri Zohar’s movie, “Big Eyes.” In 1974, Einstein went on tour with Shalom Hanoch who had formed a band together with Ariel Zilber which Einstein named Tammuz. Tammuz would be one of the most influential Israeli bands of the 70s.
In 1976, Arik Einstein asked Yoni Rechter to engineer his next album. Einstein was impressed with Rechter’s work on the album “Fourteen Octaves.” Rechter enthusiastically agreed. The result was a short but beautiful album called, “Love Has Many Faces.”
Throughout the rest of the 70’s he recorded and performed with some of the up and coming talent on the Israeli music scene including, Avner Kenner, Shem-Tov Levi, Shlomo Yidov, Corinne Alal and Yehudit Ravitz. In 1979, Einstein and Hanoch reunited for another tour, which would include shows in New York and finally end up in Hechal Hatarbut in Tel Aviv.
More suggested listening from Arik Einstein’s Albums of the 1970s:
And from the 1980s:
His last performance was in 1981. The audience had no idea that it would be his last show. His fans always hoped that he would take the stage again, but he never did.
He died of an aortic aneurism on November 26, 2013 at age 74.
Legacy and the future
Einstein will continue to inform, entertain and influence the Israeli public and art community forever. Immediately after his passing, our friend Michael Cohen of Cohenbeats and Cohen@Mushon posted the following
We are living in a transitionary period.
On the seam between Old Israel and New Israel.
The death of Arik Einstein is another sign that the Old Israel is departing and vacating its space.
As a Israeli and Tel Avivi artist, I understand that the New Israel is us.
We, the Israeli artists, have to preserve this culture.
To love the place that we live in and to express it with our work.
To love being at home and take care of this home.
For me and, I believe, for all of us, Arik was a pure and total Israeli artist.
In his deep and delicate voice, Arik reminded us how beautiful life can be here.
Let’s bring this beauty.
Let’s make him proud, that he might look down from the heavens and smile.
I love you Arik and I love my home.
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