Svika Pick, Israeli Composer and Pop Legend, Dies at 72

The Poland-born pop icon's career spanned several decades and left a mark on Israel's musical canon. He is survived by five children

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Polish-Israeli pop sensation Svika Pick in 1986.
Polish-Israeli pop sensation Svika Pick in 1986.Credit: Sami Ben Gad
Shira Naot
Shira Naot

Svika Pick, a mainstay of the Israeli pop scene for decades and recipient of Israeli Authors, Composers and Music Producers Association 2011 award for lifetime achievement, died on Sunday at the age of 72. Among his most memorable hits are “Mala” (Up, Up), “Ahava Besof Hakayitz” (Love in Late Summer), “Ani Ohev Otach Leah (I Love You Leah), and “Mary Lou,” some of which are part and parcel of Israel’s musical canon.

Pick was the father of five children from two relationships. In 1975, he married Mirit Shem-Or, the songwriter who composed most of his hits. They had three children: Benli, a doctor; and Sharona and Daniella, who performed as a duo, the Pick Sisters. In 1995, the couple divorced, but continued to collaborate. In 2004, Pick and fashion designer Shira Manor, 36 years his junior, began dating. The couple, which had two sons, split up in May 2021.

Svika Pick with daughters Sharona and Daniella.Credit: Daniel Chichik

In 2018, Pick had a stroke during a flight from London to Israel. In interviews, Pick said that he had undergone extensive rehabilitation, relearning the Hebrew language, as well as to walk and live independently. However, he stressed that he intended to continue to create. In one interview he said: “I’ll never stop. On the contrary, the desire only grows. There isn’t and won’t be a time when I think of retiring.”

In 2019, Pick took to the stage again as a guest star on the annual children’s music show Festigal, with Nicky Goldstein, who was is longtime backup singer.

This summer, Pick was set to tour the country in concert, but a week and a half before his first appearance the production announced the tour’s cancelation and returned the price of the tickets to purchasers. Pick’s spokesmen said the tour was cancelled due to problems with the musicians.

Svika Pick poses in 1974.Credit: Sami Ben Gad

Pick was born Henryk Pick on October 3, 1949 in Wroclaw, Poland and immigrated to Israel at the age of eight. As a teen, he played in bands, and when he was 21, in the 1970s, he was showcased as the lead in the Hebrew-language production of Hair. The role garnered him many fans, and he made eight albums throughout that decade, during which time he was also awarded singer of the year award three times by the radio station Reshet Gimel.

Throughout the 1980s, Pick continued to create, albeit with less commercial success. But the 1990s saw a comeback for Pick with a concert tour backed by the band “Nosei Hamigbahat,” and in 1998, when he wrote the song “Diva,” which won Dana International first prize at the Eurovision Song Contest. A year later, Habima Theater produced a musical, “Mary Lou” based on his hit songs.

Pick performs in the play "Mary Lou", based on his songs, in 1999.Credit: Ariel Shalit

Pick enjoyed a flourishing TV career later in life. In 2005, a reality show was broadcast about his life, called “The Maestro.” He also began a four-year stint on the judges’ panel of the Israeli version of “A Star is Born” that year. In 2013, he appeared in the second season of the reality show “Goalstar,” about a soccer team made up of celebrities.

Svika Pick judging on the television show 'A Star is Born.'Credit: Dud Bachar

In describing the reasons for his choice as winner of the ACUM lifetime achievement award, the jury stated: “Svika Pick wrote dozens of songs over the years, beginning with innocent and childlike pop songs and on the melodramatic songs in which he used the words of poets like Alexander Penn and Natan Yonatan. But the prize is also awarded to him for his unique contribution as the first and ultimate pop icon in Israel. The only man in the Middle East who knew how to do honor to a sequined shirt.”

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