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January 3: The Einstein of Israeli Music and Culture

January 3, 2015

arik-einstein-1Arik Einstein, a singer-songwriter, pioneer of Israeli rock music, and probably the most influential musician in the country’s short history, was born in Tel Aviv on this date in 1939. Einstein recorded more than 500 songs and released, both individually and collaboratively, thirty-four albums, including Puzi with The Churchills (1968), which many consider to be Israel’s first rock album. “In the 1960s and 1970s,” writes Emily L. Hauser at the Daily Beast, “Arik Einstein and a handful of artists turned Israeli culture upside down, with music, film, and television that alternately broke with and built on the earnest ideological spirit that had informed Israeli discourse from the early pioneering days. In the ensuing years, he and those friends — including the almost equally influential Shalom Hanoch (the slightly edgier Lennon, perhaps, to Einstein’s McCartney) transitioned from Israel’s enfant terribles to its cultural touchstones.” Einstein was a painfully shy performer who retired from the stage in 1981, at 42. ‘I was held back by the embarrassment, the bashfulness, and it became more evident as the years went by,” he said. “On the other hand, in the studio, I blossom.” Einstein was also widely admired for his collaborations with younger and less-known musicians. Until the mid-1990s, while creating his own original music, he released “The Old and Good Land of Israel” series, which covered songs from pre-state Palestine to “ballroom” songs of the 1950s, as adapted by contemporary musicians. Einstein died at 74 in 2013. To get a sense of him in a 1978 television special, see below.

“You and I will change the world / You and I, and then they’ll all follow / They’ve said it before, but that doesn’t matter / You and I will change the world.” —Arik Einstein

“There are people who climb mountains / And people who jump from airplanes / There are people who ride horses / And those who burn up the miles... But I love to be home / With tea and lemon and my old books / Yes, I love to be home / With the same old love and the same old habits / I love to be home.” —Arik Einstein