Yigal Bashan, Beloved Israeli Musician, Found Dead at Home

Singer/songwriter, 68, had half-century-long career; one of biggest hits was song about losing bid to represent Israel at Eurovision

Singer Yigal Bashan
Avi Valdman

Yigal Bashan, one of Israel’s most beloved musicians, died on Sunday at the age of 68. He was found dead at his home at about 4 P.M., and an ambulance crew was unable to revive him.

As both a singer and composer, he was responsible for many classic Israeli songs, including “Sivan,” “Eretz Hatzabar” and “Anachnu Nisharim Ba’aretz.”

In 2016, Bashan won a lifetime achievement award from ACUM, the Israeli society of authors, composers and music publishers. In its decision, the prize jury said he was behind “a long list of canonical hits sung by everyone.” His music was “a combination of east and west,” it added, and he was “one of the first to invent the new Israeli style, from the 1960s until today.”

In his acceptance speech, Bashan said that upon receiving such a prize, “People tell you, ‘rest, enjoy, the work will get along without you.’ But a lifetime achievement prize gives me the desire to launch another endeavor.”

Bashan, born Yigal Bashari, began his musical career at age 15, when he and a classmate, Shlomit Aharon, formed the duo Yigal and Shlomit. But his breakthrough came at age 17, when he starred in the musical “I Like Mike” in 1968.

After doing his army service as part of an entertainment troupe, he solidified his status in the music world with a series of hits, including “Tzipor Ktana Balev” and “Kaffe Etzel Bertha.”

In 1974, he co-starred with Dalia Friedland in George Obadiah’s film “Sarit,” for which he wrote and performed the soundtrack. Later that decade, he went abroad to fulfill a contract to make four records in English.

After returning to Israel a few years later, his career seemed to be at a standstill. But then he recorded the hit “Sivan.”

In 1985, the Kmo Tzo’anim trio, of which he was part, lost the contest to represent Israel in the Eurovision by a single point with a song of the same name. In response, the trio wrote “Anachnu Nisharim Ba’aretz” (“We’re Staying in Israel”), which was even more popular than their Eurovision entry.

The trio later starred in the children’s television show “Hopa Hey,” which aired until 1995.

In an interview with Haaretz in 2009, Bashan said, “I’d like to sing and write even at age 110. The question is whether people will want to listen. To this day, I don’t take that for granted.”

But in 2014, he was hospitalized with stab wounds, and an investigation later concluded that they were self-inflicted.

After Bashan’s death was announced, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin both published statements eulogizing him.

“I deeply regret his passing,” Netanyahu wrote on Twitter. “His voice and his songs will continue to accompany us for many years to come. In the name of all Israeli citizens, I send my condolences to his family.”

Rivlin said, “Dear Yigal, you were a comet that disappeared before our eyes, but the shards of light spread by your songs and your voice will always remain with us.” Describing Bashan as “the man with the warm voice who made us long for something we couldn’t even name,” Rivlin added that his talents as a soloist never interfered with Bashan’s ability to sing as part of a group.

Yigal Bashan and his wife Mika
Nahum Asis

The Israeli Union of Performing Artists said in a statement, “We are shocked and grieved at the death of our beloved Yigal Bashan ... His contribution to Israel’s cultural heritage was enormous, spanning many years and many ages, communities and genres. His sudden loss is unbearable.”

Bashan is survived by his wife of more than 40 years, fashion designer Mika Bashan, and two children.