Close to a year since his passing it still seems a little strange to talk about Arik Einstein in the past tense.
There was always something so warm, immediate and familiar about his vocal delivery and personality, and there was the sense that, somehow, he was always going to be around.
Einstein, who died on November 26, 2013, just over a month short of what would have been his 75th birthday, is possibly the most iconic singer this country has ever known.
His special standing, and his formative role in the evolution of Israeli pop and rock music, will be saluted by a suitably stellar roll call of artists put together by artistic director Kobi Ben-Atar, at the Zoh Otta HaAhava (It’s the Same Love) concert, which will take place on October 7, at 8:30 p.m., at Ganei Yehoshua in Hayarkon Park, Tel Aviv Fittingly, there are plenty of big names in the artist lineup for the occasion, including some of the musicians who made significant contributions to Einstein’s wide-ranging body of work over his 50-plus year career. Stellar musician-songwriters Mickey Gabrielov, Yoni Rechter, Yitzhak Klepter, Shalom Hanoch and Shem Tov Levy, the five principal Einstein composers, are in there, as is Josie Katz, the American-born singer who found international fame, along with Einstein and Shmulik Krauss, in the late Sixties, as The High Windows trio.
Einstein’s universal appeal is also reflected in the cross-generational roster of pop and rock artists who will grace the stage on October 7, and who provide a rich ethnic tapestry – as well as a fitting tribute to the acrossthe- board esteem in which Einstein was held throughout his entire career, and now after his death. Fifty-something Iranian- born diva Rita will bring her vocal skills and dramatic stage persona to the Einstein show, as will Belarus-born troubadour Arkadi Duchin and 37-year-old rocker Dudu Tassa whose grandfather was a famous musician in Iraq.
Shem Tov Levy is only too happy to be on board, and to salute the man who, basically, launched his career. “I was just out of the army when I wrote a song for Arik,” Levy recalls.
“At the time, Arik was looking for songwriters to work with, so our paths crossed at just the right time. I was very lucky.”
The Levy-Einstein synergy started out with “Shir Shel Achrei Milhama” (A Post-war Song). “I played a few tunes for Arik, and he liked that one, and that was the beginning of a wonderful relationship which lasted many years.”
The aforementioned number found its way onto Einstein’s 1972 album, Jasmine, which was a mix of original Hebrew language scores, by the likes of Levy, Hanoch and Gabrielov, and some cover versions, including of The Beatles’s “Here, There and Everywhere”, Elton John’s “I Need You to Turn To” and American folk singer Tim Hardin’s “Reason to Believe.” There was also a characteristically madcap comedy slot by Einstein and Uri Zohar, the “Bible Quiz Sketch,” in which Einstein brought his significant theatrical and comedic abilities to the fore.
Things went well for Levy and Einstein, and they were to join forces several times over the following three-plus decades. “We didn’t work together continually, but we made an album, and then after a break we made another,” says Levy. “It was very special to work with Arik.”
A year later Levy contributed the score to “Yahol Lihyot Shezeh Nigmar” (It Might Be Over), to words by Yehonatan Gefen, which became the hit single from Einstein’s Eretz Yisrael Ha’yeshanah Vehatovah (Old and Good Israel) record.
“I don’t remember exactly, but I think we did about 7 or 8 records together,” Levy continues.
“The main ones are Pesek Zman (Time Out) – I’ll be doing “Lakachat Pesek Zman” from the record in the show. I wrote the music for the whole album and Arik wrote all the lyrics for it. After Pesek Zman we did Totzeret Haaretz (Made in Israel) which is all texts by Nathan Alterman, for which I wrote the music, and later we did 2 more albums – Yesh Bi Ahava (I Have Love) and Le’an Halchu Haparparim (Where Have the Butterflies Gone).”
Levy is now a senior member of the local pop and rock scene, but those early tentative steps with the already established star remain a clear and sweet memory. “I admired him and looked up to him. Anyone in those days who listened to contemporary Israeli music looked up to Arik, so to actually work with him and write music for him was a really big deal for me.” But, typically, Einstein was not looking to play the ego game with his novice partner in music making. “He got down to the brass tacks straightaway,” says Levy. “He made me feel I was his equal.
He was so warm and welcoming.”
It is difficult to imagine the Israeli commercial music scene without Einstein’s groundbreaking contribution. “He was unique,” declares Levy. “There was something in the way he presented the material, and the way the lyrics came out of his mouth, his diction. He was also an actor. Even a deaf person – by that I mean someone who is not sensitive to this kind of thing – would identify his delivery and special style. Arik was also so communicative, and touched people’s hearts as well as appealing to their more cerebral side.”
Levy also notes a side of Einstein’s craft which generally goes unnoticed. “He was also a wonderful lyricist. He wrote the words for dozens of songs, and I think people don’t give him enough credit for that.
He had a way of taking mundane expressions, phrases we all use on an everyday basis, and integrating them in songs so naturally. Perhaps that was his charm – that he made us all feel at home and comfortable with his art. He was always ‘one of us.’” The other artists in the Zoh Otta HaAhava lineup include Yehudit Ravitz and Corinne Alal, with whom Einstein recorded one of his best loved songs, “Atur Mitzchech,” in 1977, to a score by Yoni Rechter.
Beri Sacharaoff, David D’Or, Danny Sanderson, Mosh Ben Ari and Shlomi Shabbat will also be there on October 7. It is a truly glittering roll call for a truly great, and sorely missed, artist.
For tickets and more information: http://tickets.bimot.co.il and http://www.eventim.co.il