Arik Einstein, Singing 'Father' to Millions, Leaves Decades of Memories

Iconic Singer Provided a 'Soundtrack to Israeli Life'

Father To Us All: Immediate reactions to singer Arik Einstein’s death at the age of 74 showed how deeply enmeshed he was in Israel’s cultural identity.
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Father To Us All: Immediate reactions to singer Arik Einstein’s death at the age of 74 showed how deeply enmeshed he was in Israel’s cultural identity.

By J.J. Goldberg

Published November 27, 2013.
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“Einstein was the embodiment of the new, liberal, secular Israel that we once thought we would be,” Chemi Shalev wrote in Haaretz. “… He was the antidote to arrogant generals, the antithesis of pompous politicians, the polar opposite of crass capitalists and manipulative machers. He was no heroic kibbutznik, no daring commando, no pretentious preacher or dogmatic fanatic. He was unencumbered by history, unburdened by Jewish suffering, undaunted by the bombastic ideology of his elders and peers.”

His songs, some from his own pen, many others written for him, were mostly quiet ballads about love, family and day-to-day life. Asked once to describe his music, he said it’s “mostly quiet and introspective, because I didn’t want to disturb the neighbors.”

Most of his albums are set pieces, each one composed and arranged by a single composer, usually drawn from a handful of friends he worked with repeatedly. His stylings evolved over the years. But the albums kept coming, year after year, and they remained best-sellers. As recently as 2010 he was still the most-played artist on Israeli radio.

As quintessentially Israeli as he was, he was also one of the very few Israeli pop favorites — Chava Alberstein and the Poogy group are others — whose work is widely known among Diaspora Jews. “Ani ve-Ata” (“You and I will change the world”) has been sung by fans all over the world since it was first released in 1970. “Uf Gozal” (“Fly away, little nestling”), released in 1987, has become a standard fixture at Jewish summer camps and in day school graduation ceremonies.

Einstein’s life took a dramatic turn in 1982. He suddenly stopped performing in public. He remained active for the next three decades, right up to his death, writing, recording, chatting with friends at his favorite shwarma joint on Ibn Gvirol Street. But he never again faced fans and rarely spoke to reporters. The one exception was a memorial concert for Yitzhak Rabin in 1995. He’d been in a serious car accident in the summer of 1982. It took him months to recuperate, and his eyesight, never strong, was severely impaired. His next few albums were named “Shavir” (Fragile), “Pesek Zman” (Time out) and “Ohev Lihiyot Babayit” (I like being at home).

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