Nachum Heiman Recalled by Colleagues as Fountainhead of Israeli Song-writing

Israel Prize winner, who died Wednesday, composed more than 1,000 songs.

Hundreds of musicians and other mourners paid their final respects to composer Nachum Heiman at the Cameri Theater in Tel Aviv before he was laid to rest Thursday. Heiman died at age 82 Wednesday night.

Songwriter Yoram Taharlev, using Heiman’s nickname, said in his eulogy: “Nakhche was an original composer who never toed the line or went with the changing tides of popular music. He barely wrote for popular bands of his time, but instead always maintained his unique, down-to-earth style. He collaborated with artists who met these criteria. He was the first, for example, to discover Hava Alberstein and wrote many of her first songs. And he wrote for Gevatron, Parvarim, Aliza Azikari and others.”

Si Heiman, his daughter, said, “I called you ‘my song man’ but before and after everything you were my father. They will continue to talk so much about your final years, but I want to take with me all that you were – the glasses of wine, the friends who sang with you late into the night, your ability to turn unknown songs into stars.” Describing him as a colorful, rare person, she said he always followed his own inner voice.

Si Heiman at an event honoring her father Nachum at the Cameri Theater in Tel Aviv. August 19, 2016. Heiman, one of Israel's most prolific composers, passed away on Wednesday.
Moti Milrod

He released more than 40 albums and composed more than 1,000 songs during the course of his career, including “Od Hozer Hanigun,” “Kmo Zemach Bar,” “Hofim,” “At Va’ani Veharuach” and “Hahol Yizkor.” Immigrating to Israel from Riga with his family at age 5, he fought in three wars and was wounded in each of them.

Financial problems in old age

Nachum Heiman's music: An Israeli playlist

Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev touched on Heiman’s financial problems later in life, saying Israeli society should “demonstrate a little more sensitivity and support for our artists, and to make sure they won’t feel neglected in old age.”

Shmulik Zvi, a Hebrew music researcher, said Heiman asked him to thank three people after his death for supporting him behind the scenes: Poet Natan Yonatan, singer-songwriter Shlomo Artzi and Taharlev.

Si Heiman went on to say, “You always told me we are a different home. There is nowhere to sit shiva. We don’t have one house. You were a house of your own. Wherever you were, you played and composed. They will cry for you in tens of thousands of homes in Israel, they will mourn for you. That is how we live. I continue your playing every night. Peace be upon you, father, I miss you so much.” She then read a song she wrote a month before he died, “My Music Man.”

His other daughter, Billy, went on stage with an orange bucket filled with flowers. She said her father had asked her to bring it and spread flowers on his grave. “Only thus will I be complete and happy,” she recalled him saying, and she spread the flowers on his grave.