Singer Shmuel (Shmulik) Kraus passed away this evening at age 77. Kraus was considered one of the greatest Israeli artists of the past 50 years, and was a key figure, and possibly the most important, in the evolution of Israeli music in the late 1960s from traditional Israeli music to modern Israeli pop and rock and roll. But despite Kraus's importance as one of the founding fathers of popular Israeli music and dozens of his songs becoming modern classics, his career broke apart time and again due to his difficult and unstable personality.
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Kraus was born in Jerusalem in 1935 and made a living teaching and performing tap dancing. After serving in the Israeli Navy he briefly worked as a merchant seaman. In the early 1960s he was part of the Ofarim trio and later met Josie Katz and founded the High Windows with her and Arik Einstein. Their only album is considered the moment when international pop music entered Israeli music, an event that changed the Israeli music scene forever.
Kraus and Katz married and left for New York after the High Windows split up, but he returned three years later. They later divorced. He continued to write songs and perform, as well as act in a number of movies. He ran into trouble with the law and was sent to prison for assaulting policie officers. In prison he wrote his first solo album "The State of Israel against Kraus Shmuel," which was released in 1977 - six years after it was recorded.
His second album came out in 1982, "Galgal Mistovev," and a third album was released in 1988. His last album came out in 1994. He was hospitalized in a psychiatric hospital a number of times and was arrested on a number of occasions. He was awarded a prize for lifetime achievement by the Education Minister in 2006, a move that was criticized by many at the time due to Kraus's erratic and problematic behavior.