There really wasn’t just one Shmulik Kraus, it’s not just that different people
saw different aspects of his complex personality.
Sometimes it was the
same people who experienced a variety of Shmulik’s personality traits. Shlomo
Mizrahi, the Electric Stage’s guitarist, says, “Shmulik was an amazing
Warm. If he loved you, he gave you everything.”
people have said, “It was scary being near him. Sometimes he was
unpredictable. If you said something that set him off, he’d react
harshly. Sometimes with an insult, and sometimes with a slap on the
Actor and TV personality Tal Friedman describes him
“Kraus was a true rock ’n’roll artist until the end. The
caresses and the blows, the cheerfulness and the depression. The black
years when he didn’t write or compose anything, and then all of a sudden he’d
have these amazing bursts of creativity.”
Kraus was a unique figure on
the local music scene, a world in which everyone tried to get along with each
other, not to insult or annoy each other.
It is said that God does not
choose who receives special talents. This has been true throughout history. We,
as fans of great art, tend to attribute positive qualities to artists who
delight and excite us. But it is not necessarily guaranteed that those who
receive the golden touch of creative genius will also be good to themselves,
their families, and their communities.
Kraus embodied every possible
quality. It is hard for us to fathom how, sometimes, the same person who
composed such wonderful songs with infinite tenderness, wondrous and thrilling
songs such as, “Zahava Doll,” “Early summer days,” “Elisheva is so nice,” and
“Return,” would, with that same gentle hand, make a fist and hurt those who
But this is life and we must deal with the facts of life to
the best of our abilities and always remember that Kraus, the genius composer
who changed the course of Israeli music with just one album, The High Windows,
was a sick man who suffered from mental illness most of his life.
Kraus was born on July 1, 1935, in Jerusalem’s Nahalat Ahim
He was the eldest of four brothers. His mother, Rosa, was a
housewife, and his father, Musa, a driver.
Kraus began his career in the
arts as a tap dance teacher. Following his military service in the Israeli Navy,
he worked as a sailor for a merchant fleet.
Only later did he discover
his love of, and talent for, music.
One day, while he was with his fellow
sailors at a pub called The Anchor, a friend asked him to hold his guitar, and
from that moment the guitar became a part of Kraus.
He began composing in
the late 50s (with “The Arava house,” in memory of his father who was active in
the founding of Kibbutz Beit HaArava) and in the early 60s he met Josie Katz,
who had made aliya from the US with her Jewish- American youth
Kraus and Katz married, and together with Arik Einstein founded
the band, The High Windows, in 1966.
Kraus composed all of the band’s
songs, soft Hebrew folkrock that was innovative for the time.
singer,” “Golden Doll,” “You can’t,” “The entire week is for you,” “First Love,”
“Yechezkel,” (which was not permitted on the radio since it was considered
denigrating to religion and to the Torah) and “Chocolate Soldier,” (which was
also not played on the airwaves since Hanoch Levin’s lyrics were considered
insulting to the memory of fallen soldiers).
Kraus continued to stir up
storms throughout his career.
In 1971 he was jailed on charges of illegal
gun possession, and during his incarceration wrote songs that he recorded in a
single day for his first solo album, The State of Israel vs. Kraus Shmuel. One
of the songs, “Hot Friday,” talked about hashish, and was also disqualified for
broadcast. The color video clip that Idan Za’ira produced was also disqualified
since Kraus appears in it smoking cannabis. The clip has never been broadcast on
Director Yasmin Hadas Lifshitz worked for over a year on a
documentary about Kraus called, An Album, which focuses on how he created his
It illustrates their creation at his home, as he writes the words
down on paper, and then combines with the guitar in the recording studio, and
records the songs – all the way through to the production of his last
Throughout his career, Kraus constantly had the urge to destroy at
the same time as he was creating these wonderful songs. He was so happy to
return to the recording studio after years of being away, and was calm, and
pleasant to everyone.
But then, when he went back to writing and
recording, the beast within him awoke and tortured him until once again the
mental illness was to overcome him and he needed to spend some time at the
Abarbanel Mental Health Center.
Kraus is considered one of the top
Israeli singers of all time, and greatly contributed to the Israeli music
revolution, even though he only produced five solo albums. He produced one album
with The High Windows, and a children’s album in 1976 with his wife, Josie Katz,
called, Alone by myself and alone together.
God made Shmulik a brilliant
genius, but took from him the ability to function normally with
Seven albums spanning a career of over 50 years do not seem like
much, but they have had a huge effect on people.
Almost every song that
he composed for himself, or for others, contains the same unique Kraus-like
quality that made him who he is.
And who he was. A complicated genius who
was conflicted with himself.
But isn’t this the essence of rock ’n’roll?
Boaz Cohen is an editor and presenter at Radio 88 FM.
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