Singer Yigal Bashan, a legend of Israeli music, dies aged 68

Musician, found dead in his home, became a national star while still a teenager; Netanyahu eulogizes him as ‘an inseparable part’ of Israel’s music scene

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Israeli singer, songwriter and actor Yigal Bashan died Sunday at the age of 68.

He was found in his Tel Aviv home, according to a short statement from his family, which described him as “a warm and loved family man, an artist, and a creator.”

He is survived by his wife and two children.

Bashan had a career spanning over four decades during which he released dozens of albums. He also acted in many theater productions and, in the 1980s, hosted a popular children’s television show, Hopa Hey.

In 2016, he was honored with a Life Achievement Award by ACUM, an Israeli non-profit organization which protects the copyright of local artists.

He gave his last stage performance just 10 days ago, in the coastal city of Herzliya, and was scheduled to perform again in another month.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in statement that Bashan was “an inseparable part of the Israeli sound track.”

“His voice and songs will continue to accompany us for many years to come,” Netanyahu continued. “On behalf of all the people of Israel, I send condolences to his family. May his memory be blessed.”

President Reuven Rivlin also issued a statement eulogizing Bashan for his contribution to Israeli culture.

“Yigal was the wonder boy who grew up to sing and play,” Rivlin wrote. “The warm voice that made us long for what we did not even know how to name, a singer so special that his wonderful solo presence never prevented him from being part of an ensemble or band, the adult singer who was also the undisputed leader of Hopa Hey and an inseparable part of the childhood of so many. Yigal, you have become a comet that has disappeared from our sight, but the shards of the radiance from your songs and voice will always be with us.”

Police and rescue personnel outside the home of musician Yigal Bashan, who was found dead at his home in Tel Aviv, December 9, 2018. (FLASH90)

Bashan was born in 1950 in the agricultural community of Nahalot Yehudah, which would later become a neighborhood of the city of Rishon Lezion.

At the age of 18, he won the prestigious David’s Violin Prize, and for his army service was snapped up by the IDF’s northern command band. The height of his career was during the 1970s.

For over 50 years, Bashan produced some of country’s most well-loved songs, including “I have a small bird in my heart,” “Aunt and Uncle,” “Let’s make a festival for ourselves,” “Speak to me without words,” and “Father, tell me why.”

Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev praised Bashan’s contributions and his winning of the Israeli Prize Life Achievement Award in 2016.

“I was sorry to hear about the untimely death of Yigal Bashan, the winner of the Life Achievement Award, one of our talented artists, who created for all of us more than ‘a little bird in the heart’,” she wrote in a Sunday night statement. “We shall miss his songs, the songs that accompanied our lives.”

Other public figures issued similar remarks in response to Bashan’s death.

In 2014, Bashan was rushed to the hospital in a moderate condition with a stab wound to his chest. Police said at the time that it was not a criminal incident. According to Hadashot news, six months later he suffered a similar stab injury. After a recovery period of a year, he returned to public life but refused to speak with media about the incidents.

During an interview 2016 with Hadashot news ahead of receiving the ACUM award, when asked about concerns over his welfare, he responded only that he had “gone through a difficult period.”

Itamar Sharon contributed to this report.

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