Ronnie Peterson, Israel's 'King of Blues,' Dies at 62

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Ronnie Peterson in 2013
Ronnie Peterson in 2013Credit: Senya Alman

Musician Ronnie Peterson, a guitarist hailed as "Israel's blues king," died Monday at the age of 62.

Peterson was born in Nuremberg, Germany in 1957 to an American serviceman and German mother.

He picked up a guitar for the first time when he was three years old, and started performing professionally at the age of 11.

In 1987, he was plucked out of New York by Israeli rock star Shalom Hanoch to work on his album and tour, and Peterson eventually moved to Israel in the 1990s.

As well as continuing to collaborate with Hanoch, he began working with other local musical artists, including Rita and Gidi Gov. In 1993, he worked on Meir Ariel's album "Seeds of Summer" and released a solo English-language album, "Mind Over Matter." 

Two other solo albums followed in the 1990s, while Peterson played with artists such as Yuval Banay and Eyal Golan.

During the 2000s, Peterson composed the music for the documentary "Red Hill" and the "Makom Project" series of short films, as well as recording two other solo albums.

More recently, he performed with singers Diana Golbi and Mei Finegold.

"I am incredibly sad," Golbi told Haaretz. "I look back at photos, and try to cherish every moment. I am very grateful this man came into my life."

"This country was extremely lucky to have had this amazing musician and great guitarist, and I was very fortunate to earn a lifelong friend and a crazy mentor," she added.

Peterson's widow, Nili, wrote on her Facebook page that she was having difficulty finding a place to bury Peterson as he is not Jewish.

"Here's the country's true essence laid bare," she wrote, "an artist like him, who uplifted and enriched the musical culture here with his own hands… a Zionist in his heart who loved Israel. Just because he's not Jewish, we spent hours yesterday to find an appropriate burial place that doesn't cost tens of thousands of shekels."

A short time later, after Yael Huldai, the wife of Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai, got involved, Nili Peterson wrote that a solution had been found. Peterson will be buried in a cemetary in Jaffa.

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