Svika Pick, Israel’s ‘king of pop’, dies aged 72

<span>Photograph: Dylan Martinez/Reuters</span>
Photograph: Dylan Martinez/Reuters

Svika Pick, a prolific songwriter and musician who was known as Israel’s “king of pop” and by the moniker the Maestro, has died at the age of 72.

He died on Sunday in his home. The cause of death is yet to be announced.

When the news broke, Israeli radio stations ended regular programming to play his music, including the classic pop song Mary Lou.

“Svika Pick died today, but the songs and melodies he left behind will continue to be played for many years to come,” said the prime minister, Yair Lapid.

President Isaac Herzog said Pick had “breathed new life into Israel’s cultural landscape and brought about a revolutionary change to it. His music penetrated our hearts and became an integral part of the soundtrack of our lives.”

Born in Poland in 1949, Pick immigrated to Israel with his parents at a young age. He began studying classical music at the age of five and as a teenager became the vocalist in several bands. He jumpstarted his musical career in the 1970s by landing the lead part in the first Israeli production of the musical Hair. He released nine albums that decade alone, with his first wife, Mirit Shem-Or, serving as a close collaborator on many of his hits, including Mary Lou.

Standing out with his flamboyant and androgynous dress sense and signature long hair at a time when Israeli performers and audiences were more conservative, Pick began writing songs and music for other artists in the 80s and 90s. He wrote the 1998 Eurovision-winning song Diva with the lyricist Yoav Ginai.

Diva was sung by the transgender singer Dana International, who paid tribute to Pick after his death, calling him “an Israeli cultural icon. A trailblazer. A gifted composer. The king of Israeli pop.”

Pick wrote several Eurovision songs, including the 2002 Israeli contender, and a song for both Israel’s and Georgia’s contestants in 2010.

In 2018 he became the father-in-law of the US film director Quentin Tarantino, who married Pick’s daughter Daniella, also a singer. That same year, Pick suffered a stroke, which impeded his speech and movement.

with Agence France-Presse