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Shlomo Artzi, Johnny Mayer, Israel Song Festival, Jerusalem

Shlomo Artzi

Israel Song Festival

In Israel, it's s not what you know, but who you know that counts... for me, the "who" were two kibbutzniks that crashed on my dorm room floor in college and arranged for me to meet Shlomo Artzi - Israel's Bruce Springsteen. If I knew how things would turn out, I'd have given them pillows!

The picture above is from the 1976 Israel Song Festival in Jerusalem that was broadcast live on television. Everybody, I mean EVERYBODY saw the show and look at those snazzy clothes and haircuts!

I performed and recorded with Shlomo for a year in the days when for about 10 lira ($2.00) the audience was treated to a Motown style line up. Tzvika Pick, Mati Caspi, Boaz Sharabi, the Parvarim, etc. with comedy provided by Dud Topaz - Israel's Seinfeld.

Besides the band, I was a volunteer music teacher in Or Yehuda, working with disadvantaged kids at a local youth center. The American Israel Fund provided a grant to purchase the instruments. That between gigs and Shlomo Artzi's "reserve duty" playing for soldiers in the Sinai desert and ceremonies.

One day, we were riding in a jeep in the Sinai and I was playing a song I wrote. Shlomo said to the band, "Listen to that song. It's the kind of "silly" American song that nobody in Israel can write one just like it."

At the time, Shlomo was just beginning to write his own material and his career was at a crossroads. His music was largely based on texts by Israeli poets like Alterman and Bialik. Sort of like Bob Dylan sings Henry Thoreau.

Shlomo Artzi's next album "Derachim" or "Roads" was a breakthrough. In "Derachim", Shlomo found his voice with personal songs, catchy melodies and sparse arrangements that became his style. Twenty five years later, Shlomo is putting out hit record after hit record of "silly" Israeli music that nobody in Israel can write songs like Shlomo Artzi.

By Johnny Mayer.

© 1998-2009 Blues for Peace Corporation. All rights reserved.

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