Eran Tzur reflects on life in the public eye and ‘The Beast Within’

Jewish wisdom and culture remain an important source of inspiration for Tzur. “I am an atheist but have musician friends in Jerusalem who combine religious life with creativity."

Eran Tzur  (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Eran Tzur
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Seven years ago Eran Tzur began working on his new book titled The Beast Within. The first chapter tells the story of a young man who, much like the writer himself arrived in Tel Aviv from a small northern town. In the big city he battles with his emerging sexuality, which is very closely tied to his creativity. The second chapter sees the hero come to terms with a challenging married life. But “the third chapter is the most fascinating” Tzur told The Jerusalem Post, “because it was written by life.”
For more than three decades, the Israeli artist has been writing songs and performing with a unique fusion of daring poetry and original compositions. Through landmark collaborations and iconic bands such as Tattoo and Carmella Gross and Vagner, he carved an artistic niche within the Israeli music scene, securing a great number of loyal followers in the process.
Throughout this period, Tzur has kept his personal life private and exercised caution when baring his soul to the curious eye of the media.
In August 2019 news broke that Tzur’s wife of many years has passed away. The cause of death was not disclosed at the time but several months later it was revealed that the 52-year-old mother of two had taken her own life.
“After the seven days of mourning over my wife, Avital,” said Tzur, “I found myself writing intuitively what turned out to be the third chapter” and the last pages of the book.
“What makes me write is my emotional state” explained Tzur. “When my soul is in turmoil I feel the need to put this energy into writing.”
“On one hand,” explained Tzur, “I am aware of the fact that many people will read sensitive, private details of your life. On the other hand, I have learned how to guard my privacy on the street, online and through everyday life. At present I feel that giving interviews and speaking openly about complex matters is part and parcel of being an artist. I constantly draw from my private life, and if this resonates with others, it means a great deal to me.”
Baring your soul to the media carries an emotional penalty. “It is true that within my close relationships, those who are close to me are inevitably exposed due to my openness,” Tzur said, “I realize that they are paying a price for it but I do not see any other choice. Talking openly to the media is a part of my tole as a creative.”
TZUR KEEPS a journal in which he writes his thoughts, feelings and take on reality. “This journal is like an airport runway where I spot a few sentences, an idea, a loose thread that I can pull and turn into a creative piece.” Inspiration also comes from reading poetry and prose such as the two short George Simenon stories Tzur translated from French which ended up evoking his creative spirits.
Tzur recently performed with his two sons at the Tel Aviv Jazz Festival. The show was dedicated to his late wife. “My older son Liam was the creative director of the show” said Tzur proudly. “He chose the material for the night and got musicians from the Thelma Yalin School,” where he is a student. “My younger son Tommy, who is an excellent singer, joined us on stage. The three of us lost Avital, and working on the music together is our way of coming to terms with a new reality and a way for us to feel that we are together.”
The coming February show in Heichal Hatarbut will also feature an appearance by Aviv Guedj. “It will include the best songs of my career as well as two new songs” and several of Guedj’s. This will be followed by an April performance at Tel Aviv’s Zappa club with Ofer Meiri, who co-wrote “Chocolate Longing” with Tzur.
“I am particularly proud of the song “Erev Bet Kislev” because I managed to fuse into my own writing quotes of Shlomo Even Gvirol, an 11th-century Jewish poet. Making something written 1,000 years ago fit seamlessly with today’s spoken language, to me, is an achievement.”
Jewish wisdom and culture remain an important source of inspiration for Tzur. “I am an atheist but have musician friends in Jerusalem who combine religious life with creativity. I respect and love their way of life but the belief in God is what separates us. I am the son of a Holocaust survivor and we grew up with the knowledge that there is no savior.”
Reflecting on a long career and a new phase in his personal life, Tzur finds solace in the music of his youth, listening to the likes of Genesis, King Crimson, post-punk and The Cure, as well as Charlie Mingus and Thelonious Monk. He finds himself returning to the writers who have influenced him over the years such as Joni Mitchell, Lou Reed and Leonard Cohen.
Tzur might listen to grunge and some of today’s most brazen artists but confesses to never watching star-search shows on TV, which are loaded with loud commotion he thoroughly dislikes.
That said, Tzur has met several artists who started their journey on these shows, and so recognized “the possibilities they present as a gateway into the music business.”
Asked if he was ever approached to appear on these shows, Tzur replied, “I am too alternative for them, which just happens to be for the better.”