JERUSALEM (AP) — Svika Pick, a pillar of Israel’s music industry who gained international attention after his song won the Eurovision Song Contest, has died. He was 72.
Pick, known as “the Maestro” in Israeli pop circles, was a singer, composer and prolific songwriter who penned dozens of No. 1 hits. After news of his death broke Sunday, Israeli radio stations cut off regular programming to broadcast his music.
Pick’s catchy pop songs, stretching as far back as the 1970s, became a soundtrack of the nation. He began his career on stage with a role in the musical “Hair” and throughout the decades became a mainstay of the Israeli music scene. A collection of his songs was turned into a musical in the early 2000s.
Among his best known tunes was “Diva,” written for the 1998 Eurovision Song Contest and performed by singer Dana International. That song won the campy competition that year and observers have repeatedly chosen it as among the contest’s all-time best entries. In a statement. Dana International called Pick “an Israeli cultural icon. A trailblazer. A gifted composer. The king of Israeli pop.”
At the start of his career, Pick brought some glitz to Israel’s music scene with his David Bowie-esque dress and signature long hair at a time when the country’s performers and audiences were more conservative.
The Pick name gained further international recognition when Daniella Pick, one of Zvika’s four children, married American director Quentin Tarantino. The couple recently had a second child and split their time between Israel and the U.S.
Pick suffered a stroke in 2018 which impeded his speech and movement. While his condition improved somewhat since, he did not return to perform or write as often as he once did.
Pick’s death drew condolences from all walks of Israeli life, including politicians, fellow artists and ordinary Israelis. The cause of death was not immediately known.
Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid said Pick’s songs “entered the Israeli heart and culture and turned into an anthem.”
“Svika died today but his songs and compositions that he left behind will continue to be played for years to come,” Lapid said.