Ehud Manor: Israels legendary songwriter dies

tel aviv | Flip through the dial of Israeli radio stations and song after song written by Ehud Manor wafts over the airwaves. It’s not because the prolific lyricist died this week. Everyday the radio bursts with his work because so many of his songs are part of what Israelis call their music.

And now Israelis are grappling with the loss of a man whose songs have for decades tapped into a national psyche of love, loss and belonging.

“Ehud Manor knew how to sing the way Israel wanted to be sung to,” said Shimon Peres, one of the several Cabinet members who attended Manor’s funeral along with thousands of friends, family members and musicians. “He knew how to be sad when Israel felt sad, how to cheer when Israel felt it was time to cheer; he knew how to fall in love in an Israel in need of love, and he wrote with the simplicity of one who writes with pushed-up sleeves, without a bit of ostentation.”

Manor, considered Israel’s most prolific songwriter, died at the age of 64 from a heart attack. He wrote some 1,200 songs and translated 600 more into Hebrew. He was known as a cultural legend that Israelis across the political and social spectrum could relate to.

The Israel Prize winner wrote of nostalgia for innocent, more pastoral times. His songs often touched on the theme of loss. Many of the songs Israelis associate with times of national mourning, such as after terror attacks and during Remembrance Day, were penned by Manor.

Manor’s funeral at the cemetery of his childhood home, the village of Binyamina south of Haifa where he grew up the son of Russian immigrants, was broadcast live on television and radio stations.

Israeli musicians who had worked closely with him gave tributes and played some of his most well-known songs.

Mati Caspi, one of Israel’s top singers who collaborated for years with Manor, was overcome with emotion as he gave a eulogy, calling Manor his “soul mate”.

Singer Gidi Gov said Manor’s creative output was incredible. “There were just so many songs,” Gov told Israel Television.

Manor’s songs are played on Israeli radio stations more than those of any other songwriter, according to ACUM, a nonprofit organization for Israeli musicians and composers.

When Manor won the Israel Prize in 1998, the selection committee awarding the prize wrote, “Ehud Manor represents contemporary reality. For the past 30 years, he has expressed our mood through the hundreds of songs he has written together with the finest composers.”

Manor has been a major figure in the Israeli music world since the late 1960s and continued to work with the most popular Israeli singers, including a younger generation of artists, until the end of his prolific life.

Manor also translated many musicals into Hebrew including “Hair” and most recently “Chicago.” He also translated Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” and “Twelfth Night.” In addition, he hosted television and radio programs and wrote children’s books.

His death was front-page news and he was eulogized by Yediot Ahronot as “a composer of dreams, a poet of hope.”

Manor , who once said, “My family is my muse,” is survived by his wife of 40 years and three adult children.