Svika Pick, the Israeli king of pop who wrote Dana International’s Eurovision-winning hit “Diva” in 1998, died on Sunday. He was 72. According to Israeli media, he died at home, although no cause of death was given.
The musician (pictured above left with Dana International), whose career spanned six decades, was also Quentin Tarantino’s father-in-law, following Tarantino’s marriage to Pick’s daughter Daniella in 2018.
That was the same year in which Pick suffered a stroke while flying from London to Israel, causing the plane to make an emergency landing in Vienna.
Despite the stroke, Pick was still working well into his eighth decade and had even been set to tour Israel this summer before his appearance was suddenly cancelled a week and a half before it was due to start, reported local newspaper Haaretz.
His death prompted an outpouring of tributes in Israel, including from the country’s president and prime minister, with a number of reports saying radio stations cancelled their regular programming to play Pick’s greatest hits on Sunday, as news of his death became public.
Pick was born in Poland in 1949, where his uncle was a music professor. From the age of five, Pick studied classical music and at 10 he immigrated to Israel where he joined a music conservatory in Ramat Gan.
His interest soon switched to rock music and, as a teenager, he formed his first band, The Chocolate, with two friends. Thanks to their alternative style, the trio were cast in an Israeli version of the musical “Hair” in 1970, where, according to reports, Pick appeared fully nude, a move that Israeli shocked society and thrust him into the public eye.
From there Pick became a mainstay of the Israeli music scene, where he earned the nickname “Mestro.” Alongside his then wife Mirit Shem-Or, with whom he had three children including Daniella, Pick wrote one of his most famous melodies, “Mary Lou” and a collaboration with lyricist Ehud Manor yielded another of his most memorable tracks, “Two Apples.”
Following his divorce from Shem-Or, Pick married Israeli fashion designer Shira Manor, with whom he has two sons.
In 1998, Pick achieved global notoriety via his catchy hit “Diva,” which he wrote with lyricist Yoav Ginaim. Dana International performed the track at the 1998 Eurovision Song Contest, winning the competition (the trio are pictured above, holding aloft the Eurovision trophy).
In 2011, he received a lifetime achievement award from the Israeli Authors, Composers and Music Producers Association.
In later life, Pick was also a regular on Israeli television, appearing as a judge on “American Idol” style singing competition “Kokhav Nolad” (“A Star is Born”) and starring in “The Maestro,” a docu-series about his life.
As is customary in Israel, Pick was buried within 24 hours, with his funeral taking place on Monday morning local time in a private service at Ramat HaSharon cemetery. According to local newspaper YNet, some of Israel’s top musicians were in attendance, including Aviv Geffen, Oshik Levi and Nisim Garame, as well as Pick’s family.
Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid also paid tribute to the musician, writing on Facebook: “Svika Pick sings ‘Music to the heart is penetrating,’ a sentence that describes exactly his songs and melodies that have been intertwined to the heart and the Israeli culture.”
“He was a revolutionary artist in his generation, from the pillars of the Israeli pop. Tzvika passed away today but the songs and tunes he left behind will continue to play for years to come. Sending warm condolences to his family and all his fans. May his memory be a blessing.”
Israeli president Isaac Herzog also paid tribute on Twitter. “Svika Pick renewed the Israeli cultural landscape and created a revolutionary change in it,” Herzog wrote. “His music penetrated the hearts, like the lyrics, and became an inseparable part of the soundtrack of our lives. His extraordinary talent as a creator yielded beautiful pearls to Israeli culture.”
Svika Pick is survived by his wife, his five children and his grandchildren.