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Acclaimed Israeli singer Meir Banai dies aged 55

Member of famous show business clan succumbs after long battle with cancer

Meir Banai during a performance in Jerusalem in 2006 (Flash90)
Meir Banai during a performance in Jerusalem in 2006 (Flash90)

The celebrated Israeli singer and songwriter Meir Banai died on Thursday evening at age 55.

Banai, who was behind some of Israel’s most notable rock and pop hits of recent decades, passed away after a prolonged battle with cancer, reports in Hebrew-language media said.

He was a member of one of the most prominent show business families in the country that includes several acclaimed musicians, actors and entertainers.

Banai’s sister Orna is a popular comedian and actress and his brother Evyatar is also a well-known singer. Cousins Yuval and Ehud have also made a major mark on the Israeli rock music scene.

His first single, “Evyatar,” released in 1982, was about his younger brother. Over the course of his career he released 10 albums.

President Reuven Rivlin reflected on Banai’s career in a post on his Facebook page: “Maybe it’s his voice that thrills the heart, maybe it’s the devotion in his songs, but every time I heard his songs, I connected, and my soul was swpt up by the tunes to places that only music can bring you to.”

“I will remember you as you were, hiding a coy smile, a wonderful singer and rare musician,” Rivlin said.

Best known for his pop-rock ballads, Banai’s music was often characterized by a fusion of blues and Mediterranean sounds.

After he reconnected with his religious roots in the mid-2000s, he began to include mystical and spiritual themes in his music.

His last studio album, 2007’s “Shma Koli,” heavily influenced by traditional Jewish liturgical texts, was met with critical acclaim.

Banai is set to be buried in Jerusalem on Friday.

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