Legendary Israeli Singer-guitarist Itzhak Klepter Dies at 72

Klepter, one of the greatest guitarists in Israeli rock, played for five decades in the bands The Churchills and Kaveret, recorded several solo albums and wrote and composed numerous hits

Shira Naot
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Itzhak Klepter in concert.
Itzhak Klepter in concert.Credit: Nicole De Castro
Shira Naot

The iconic singer-guitarist Yitzhak Klepter died on Thursday at the age of 72 from complications of a lung disease he has suffered from for years.

Klepter was born in Haifa in 1950 to parents from Poland, and lived most of his life in Tel Aviv. He was one of Israel's most well-known and beloved musicians, and one of the greatest guitarists in Israeli rock.

The first instrument Klepter picked up was an accordion, when he was just seven. He later built himself a home-made guitar and asked his parents to get him a real one for his bar mitzvah. A few years later, he was earning a living as a musician.

Itzhak Klepter at a concert in his honor in Tel Aviv, 2019.Credit: Shlomi Pinto

In September, Klepter published a book titled "Tuned Tone" marking 50 years of his work.

Klepter formed the rock band The Churchills in the 1960s, named after his own nickname, Churchill. While in the military, he was a musician in Brigade 14's entertainment troupe . After his military service, he was a band member of Kaveret, The Platina, Hasignonot ("The Styles"), Tuned Tone and Aharit Hayamim ("End of Days"). By the end of the '70s, he was preforming solo.

“I feel deep sadness at the death of Yitzhak Klepter, who was and always will be a major part of the Israeli soundtrack,” said Culture Minister Chili Tropper. “Klepter was a gifted musician and the sounds he created … entered the hearts of many Israelis ... sounds that will remain after his departure.”

In 1980, Klepter performed at the Israel Song Festival with Yael Levy, singing the song “Balayla" ("At Night"). His first solo album, "Yitzhak," was released in 1981. It was produced by saxophonist and composer Jaroslav Jakubovic and included several hits.

After the failure of his second album, “Alone,” released in 1984, Klepter decided to stop singing. He soon faced financial troubles, and in 1989, a fundraiser was held for him. He bought a motorbike with the money, but had to sell it as his financial situation continued to decline.

In 2000, a tumor was found in Klepter's head. Kaveret reunited for a concert to raise money for an operation in Europe. He recovered quickly and resumed performing, but his chronic lung disease worsened over the past decade.

In 2011, he was hospitalized because of lung disease-related complications, and was ventilated and intubated. With his life clearly in danger, his old friend Arik Einstein released the album "Singing Yitzhak Klepter."

In 2015, Kelpter performed in a reunion of The Churchills. That year, in an interview with Haaretz, Klepter said: “I don’t want to say I’m vintage because I’m still alive here, awake and responsive, working and playing. In recent years, I’ve written loads of songs. Of those I released, 20 percent succeeded and 80 percent didn’t, so I’m not in a hurry and have no interest in releasing a new song. I’m retired already, anyway.

“I’m trying to survive and to hold onto life. I want people to go and buy my records," he added.

Klepter’s last solo album, “A Bit of a Diplomat,” was released in 2008. That same year, he won a Society of Authors, Composers and Music Publishers in Israel lifetime achievement prize for his work in music. In addition to the songs he sang, he wrote numerous songs for other singers, many of which became hits, like “Ballad for a Naive Girl” for Yael Levy, “If You’re Around” for Arik Sinai and “Just Yesterday” for Gali Atati.

Klepter is survived by his wife, singer-songwriter Vered Klepter, and his son, Uriah Klepter, a musician and DJ.

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