(photo credit: YEHUDIT WINOGRAD/COURTESY)
Israel’s Anglo music community is singing the blues, as one of its most beloved performers climbed her stairway to heaven.
Growing up in Houston in the Young Judaea youth movement, Becca Kristovsky played her last note on Hatzionut Street in Haifa where she lived, a 10-minute walk from the Zebra Bar & Grill – the weekly Thursday evening gig that featured her warm voice, irreverent banter and down-to-earth charisma.
She also climbed from performing at the children’s program with her two kids at the annual Jacob’s Ladder Festival onto its main stage, gracing it with a now legendary smile and occasional smirk, a Gittler bass guitar, Texas boots, and an impressive range that playfully hit the high and low notes of Linda Ronstadt’s “Blue Bayou.”
“We lived four blocks from the Houston JCC,” says her mother, “and they had an excellent performing arts program.”
After trying piano and viola, at 14, Becca picked up the guitar and never looked back.
“I remember her singing at parties with her Young Judaea friends in college,” recalls Aaron, her brother, who donated bone marrow to try to stem the aplastic anemia, a rare blood condition, to which she eventually succumbed.
“Becca was our leading light. Her beauty, grace and wisdom, along with that smile, made her our spokesperson,” says TRiAD bandmate Clive Noble. Fellow band member Michael Lavetter says that Becca loved to interact with her audience, “always giving them what they want; she was so openhearted.” Yonatan Bar-Rashi rounds out the band.
“Middle Age Blues” became a signature song in recent years, along with “I Am Your Saxophone” and other folksy, stylized tunes. The crowd-pleasers were songs like “Love Me Like a Man,” “We Shall be Free” and “Playin’ the Blues.”
Rock-star hot well into her 50s – with green eyes, trademark dimples and sassy short hair – Becca had a comfortable stage swagger and beautiful voice that “could captivate an audience for an hour and a half” show, said a family friend. She and her bandmates represented Israel at an international blues festival in Memphis, where they also performed at the Hard Rock Cafe.
Lake Kinneret (the Sea of Galilee), on whose banks she played during the music festivals, rose Monday, as both steady rain and tears set the beat for the snaking umbrella parade accompanying her black-draped body to its final resting place: the ground floor of the double-decker cemetery section, shin mem, with an expansive ocean view.
There, Becca, just shy of 55, packed her last standing-room-only crowd, over 300 people, with a musical funeral and a permanent ticket at row 9, plot 34, bedecked by two wreaths of flowers. Her spirit was evident as the rabbi played a Hebrew Psalms version of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” accompanied by one guitar and two shovels, in the somber sing-along.
One of her favorites, “Time in a Bottle” by Jim Croce, was played halfway through the funeral – the Muppets recording, appropriately. (The red, hairy, hard rockin’ Muppet drummer, Animal, is tattooed on her shoulder.)
She had met her husband, Gil, recently deceased, through her work at the time at Ben-Gurion University. An English teacher by day at the Reut school in Haifa, and former development professional at the Leo Baeck school, Becca left the hi-tech world to teach and mentor young people.
She is survived by her many fans, as well as her mother, Zelda; brother and sister – Aaron and Rachel; two kids, Itamar, 20, and Noga, 22, and Gil’s family and his collection of dragons. Their tombstone overlooking the Mediterranean is adorned with a black dragon, the kind you would find on the arm of a Hells Angels biker. Fans and family are posting her music videos on her Facebook page. Be prepared to cry.The writer has been a fan since Young Judaea Year Course, Kibbutz Ketura and Camp Tel Yehuda. He can be reached @KaptainSunshine
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