Hanoch, Shalom (1946–)

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Hanoch, Shalom

Israeli rock music icon Shalom Hanoch (Hanokh, Chanoch) is one of the most significant performing artists currently active in the country's popular music scene. As a singer-songwriter and composer, he has been a major force in the Israeli entertainment arena since the end of the 1960s and the influence he exerts over his contemporaries, as well as younger generations, remains potent. He is one of a select group of Israeli pop/rock musicians who have managed to remain relevant to a significant portion of the population while maintaining a distinguished, individual, and sincere artistic profile.


Hanoch was born 1 September 1946 at Kibbutz Mish-marot in mandatory Palestine. Immigrants from Eastern Europe, Russia, Latvia, and Lithuania founded the kibbutz, which is situated near Haifa, Israel's third-largest city.

His early music training took the form of compulsory lessons in mandolin and recorder performance, in accordance with the standard kibbutz-movement practice of this period. When he was twelve years old, he taught himself to play the guitar, and wrote his first song, "Laila" ("Night"), by the time he was fourteen.

By the age of sixteen, at which time Hanoch moved to Tel Aviv, he was already a surprisingly mature composer with an independent spirit. A representative song of his from this period is the perennially popular ballad Agadat Deshe" ("Tale from the Tall Grass").


Name: Shalom Hanoch (Hanokh, Chanoch)

Birth: 1946, Kibbutz Mishmarot, mandatory Palestine

Family: Married three times

Nationality: Israeli

Education: Attended the Beit Zvi School of Dramatic Arts, Tel Aviv


  • 1968: First commercially released recording of early songs, writes all the melodies for a complete album of Arik Einstein
  • 1970: Joins the Shablul rock band
  • 1974: Founds the Tamuz rock band
  • 1976: Releases the album Sof Onat ha-Tapuzim (The End of the Orange Season)
  • 1977: Releases first solo album Adam Betoch Etzmo (A Man within Himself)
  • 1981: Releases solo album Hatuna Levana (White Wedding)
  • 1984: Releases the best-selling album Mehakim Le'Mashiah (Waiting for the Messiah)
  • 2004: Receives the Landau Prize for Life Achievement
  • 2005: Performs a series of joint concerts with Shlomo Artzi

Hanoch's early artistic aspiration was to be an actor. At sixteen studied theater at the Bet Zvi School of Dramatic Arts. In 1965, while he was still receiving theatrical training, a commercial recording of his song "Stav" ("Autumn") was released. At the age of nineteen he both received his compulsory military draft notice, and had to audition twice before being accepted to the legendary Lahakat ha-Nahal Entertainment Corps, a group comprised of legitimate soldiers with a mandate to perform in theatrical and musical productions before the troops on the frontlines. Some of the most prominent Israeli musicians, actors, directors, and writers emerged from these troops after receiving intensive training. The so-called golden age of the Entertainment Corps is considered to be from 1950 to 1980.

Hanoch's tour of duty passed relatively uneventfully, and during this time he continued to compose and perform in Tel Aviv clubs where he joined forces with other talented young musicians such as bassist Eli Magen (jazz independent, Israel Philharmonic) and singer-songwriter Hannan Yovel (former Arad Music Festival producer).

After his army service, Hanoch moved back to Tel Aviv and became an important member of Israel's music community there. The year 1968 marked a significant watershed in Hanoch's life: his release from the army, marriage to his first wife, a breakthrough album Mazal G'di, and his decision to give up his membership in Kibbutz Mishmarot for good. During this time, Hanoch was extremely prolific; he had an impressive string of popular music hit songs and simultaneously began to collaborate with radical political songwriters such as Yonatan Geffen, Yacov Rothblitt, Meir Ariel, and Uri Zohar. He also took on other projects, such as performing the Hebrew-language cover version of John Lennon's "Give Peace a Chance" with other Israeli artists, including Arik Einstein and Zohar (two of the Israeli music scenes most important artists at that time) in 1969, and became part of the Lool Group, an Israeli music and entertainment group that formed between 1969 and 1970.

In 1970 Hanoch moved to London to try to make a name for himself on the international music scene. However, largely because of the cultural bias involved in popular music, he was not successful in the English-language market.

Throughout Hanoch's time in London he periodically traveled to Israel, visits that helped to reestablish his strong partnership with Einstein as well as reconfirm his validity as an artist. He returned to Israel permanently in 1973.

After his return to Israel, Hanoch formed the band Tamuz (June). The band played together from 1974 through 1976. Their music reflected the somber post-1973 War mood in Israel.

After the band broke up in 1976 for financial reasons, Hanoch released his first Hebrew language solo album, Adam Betoh Etzmo (A Man within Himself) in 1977. He remained primarily a solo artist until the mid-1990s, releasing several more albums and going on concert tours. In the mid-1990s, Hanoch made a return to collaborative work and has produced several collaborative and solo efforts since then. He continues to live in Tel Aviv and record at his home studio.


As a child Hanoch was exposed to music with a strong melodic orientation: classical music, Russian folk songs, gospel-blues, and Broadway musical soundtracks, which perhaps accounts for the dominant role melody has played in his subsequent songwriting.

He began to develop his own musical language when he taught himself to play the guitar at the age of twelve (the result of gift from his father). By fourteen he had already written the music to his first song ("Laila"; "Night"). The kibbutz community provided a ready stage for the young composer and his early attempts at songwriting were met with enthusiasm in his immediate environment.

The period after his release from army service when he relocated to Tel Aviv (long considered to be the unofficial cultural capital of Israel) proved to be a significant influence on his artistic development. There, he was influenced by the popular music of the world, in particular the Beatles and the British invasion.


To a large degree, RockFour carries on the legacy of Shalom Hanoch in the pantheon of Israeli rock music. Eli Lulai and Baruch Ben-Itzchak founded the band in the late 1980s in the city of Holon, Israel. The electronic influence of Hanoch's solo album White Wedding on RockFour's melodic and psychedelic musical language is significant. The band's musical esthetics are based on 1960s rock music styles (including the use of analogue equipment in its recordings), with Hanoch and his music as role models. Unlike Hanoch, RockFour achieved a measure of international success (due in part to its decision to sing in English) and released a number of albums after signing with the U.S. label Rainbow Quartz around the turn of the millennium. In a nod to its musical roots, the band released the 1996 album Be'Hazara Le'Shablul (The Return to Shablul), which contained cover versions of songs cowritten by Hanoch and the singer Arik Einstein.

Tel Aviv Music Scene, 1967–1973

In the late 1960s, the vivid and popular music scene in Tel Aviv gravitated between two poles. A conservative line, led by established creators such as Naomi Shemer and Nurit Hirsh, satisfied a general public demand for light, rather trivial entertainment characterized by bittersweet nostalgic melancholy following the postwar euphoria of the 1967 War. At the same time, an alternative music scene was developing.

This burgeoning scene centered on charismatic personalities such as the singer-actor Arik Einstein and the multidisciplinary artist Uri Zohar. These artists searched for means of individual expression through the allied arts of music, theater, and filmmaking.

In tandem with local artistic trends, an open dialogue was established with musical influences from abroad. The contemporary music of the Beatles (and the worldwide British invasion) made a huge impression on Hanoch's generation, in addition to the liberal atmosphere surrounding drug use and sexual mores.

In 1967 the most important artistic collaboration to date in his life occurred when Einstein (at that time already a legendary performer) attended a party where Hanoch performed some of his own songs. Einstein offered him a contract on the spot, and a few weeks later Einstein recorded and released four of Hanoch's songs on a short album (similar to an EP [extended play]) in 1968, the year Hanoch finished his army service.

The synergy between Einstein's unique vocal style and interpretation and Hanoch's compositions marked the beginning of a long, fruitful collaboration and pushed Hanoch (a newcomer) to the forefront of the Israeli 1960s rock music scene. For Einstein's next album Mazal G'di (Capricorn), Hanoch composed all the songs and provided some of the lyrics.

The Lool Group, 1970

The years 1969 and 1970 marked preliminary attempts by the alternative music scene to establish an Israeli art rock music style. A large group of young, talented writers and performers gravitated during this period toward the charismatic personalities of Einstein and Zohar and established the Lool (Chicken Coop) Performance Group. The buzz on the street was that something fresh and original was emerging from their rehearsal rooms. Lool Group members did not limit themselves to musical activities; they also produced, sang, and acted in a number of popular movies, as well as a radical TV show (the Israeli version of the British TV satire series Monty Python's Flying Circus). Once again Hanoch's talent for teamwork was apparent (a predilection that derived from his kibbutz upbringing, which emphasized the importance of the collective).

Over the next few joint albums, 1970s Shablul (Snail) and Plastalina (Playdough), Hanoch and Einstein shared equal billing on LPs' front covers. The presence of energetic electric guitars and keyboards dominate these albums, and are representative of the Ramla sound (a distinctive style disseminated by underground bands that migrated to Tel Aviv from the small town of Ramla). The combination of Hanoch's melodic lines, Einstein's rich and expressive voice, and trendy period electric sonorities gave the local popular music some of its most potent and effective moments. The significance and influence of the Lool Group on popular taste marked a watershed in the history of Israeli rock music.

Tamuz (June), 1974–1976

During the 1970s, Hanoch's most important contribution to Israel's popular music scene was the founding of the Tamuz rock band. Prior to this, Hanoch had made two unsuccessful attempts to reenter the existing scene after his return from London. The more interesting effort was an initiative to reestablish his partnership with Einstein and the Churchills rock band. They were scheduled to open a week after the 1973 Yom Kippur high holy day. With the outbreak of the 1973 Arab-Israeli War on that exact day, this proved to be an inauspicious time for new musical ventures in light of the lingering havoc the war wreaked on the state's economy and tiny entertainment market.

In the midst of a new collaboration with the songwriter-pianist Mati Caspi, Hanoch met pianist and singer-songwriter Ariel Zilber, who would become his new stage partner for a while. The stage was set for the founding of Tamuz.

As a result of the 1973 War, Israel went through an intense period of self-examination on many different levels. Popular anger and frustration surfaced, and the resulting grassroots protest movement forced the government to admit to some of its faults. Prewar musical styles, conventions, and trends were determined to be no longer relevant, and there was a real need to forge new musical styles.

The spirit of Tamuz reflected the new and somber postwar atmosphere in Israel: Hanoch and lead singer Ariel Zilber were fresh from failed attempts to infiltrate the international music scene, guitarist Yehuda Eder and bassist Eitan Gidron were newly released from the army, and drummer Meir Israel was looking for new ventures after some success in the local underground rock scene.

Tamuz became a major entity in Israel's popular music scene. Within the group, Hanoch was its main creator; he wrote most of its songs and experimented with hard-rock musical-esthetics for the first time. During this time Hanoch met two influential musicians: personal manager Michael Tapuach and musical producer Louie Lahav.

Lahav (recently having worked with Bruce Springsteen) immediately upgraded the musical level of the band. He made Tamuz's songs longer, heavier, and more energetic than the usual Israeli style. He developed a direct, expressive, and rough musical aesthetic, and a unique meeting of minds between a former kibbutz melodist and a hard-rock producer from the heart of the American music industry was created.

Tamuz's first album, Sof Onat ha-Tapuzim (The End of the Orange Season), was released in 1976, followed by a successful supporting tour throughout the country. Once again Hanoch's ability to adjust to a new musical environment and to constantly develop was proven. One might even conclude that Hanoch is stimulated constantly by challenging his materials with nonobvious surroundings; his selection of producers, at any given point in his career, has made him adjust to a new and more progressive musical style.

Hanoch and Lahav soon found common musical language and for a while the rough, abstract style of production and arranging become a trademark of Han-och's sound. Loud music, long guitar and drums solos, and screaming and eccentric stage performances introduced a new, revamped Hanoch to the Israeli public.

The Israeli entertainment market was too small to sustain Tamuz financially, however, and the band broke up in 1976.

First Solo Album

Hanoch kept his professional ties with Lahav and in 1977 Hanoch released his first Hebrew language solo album, Adam Betoch Etzmo. Working for the first time in his long career outside the framework of a group or backup band was a significant stage in Han-och's life. The album was somber, introverted, sad, and produced in a softer way at the request of Hanoch who stated to the Maariv newspaper: "You play rock music with a band and I wanted to be more personal."

Following the album's release, Hanoch began a successful tour that climaxed in the two Neviot (Nueba) Woodstock-oriented festivals of 1977 and 1978. The successes of the upbeat songs in the show convinced Hanoch to include more of these numbers in his act. In 1979, and now in top form, Hanoch rejoined Einstein for a short and successful reunion tour.

Hatuna Levana (White Wedding)

The next solo album of Hanoch was released in November 1981. By that time Hanoch had performed in small clubs and assisted in the publication of his first songbook. In an interview with Israeli television he declared:

My later songs are more mature. Maturity comes with a certain kind of commitment and responsibility, and for me that means a much more exposed self on stage and in the recording studio. Today I am much closer to rock and roll. Rock and roll is not only a musical style, it's a way of life. The key point is minimalism; clarity and minimalism.

In November 1981, Hatuna Levana (White Wedding), a concept album of songs closely tied together around a tale of broken marriage, was released. The heavy sound and dense arrangements made the album radical and difficult listening for its time. With his constant drive to challenge himself and progress, Hanoch engaged Yaroslav Jaacobowits, a saxophone player and arranger who immigrated to Israel from Czechoslovakia. The show that followed the release of the record was bombastic. It was the first of its kind in Israel and Hanoch's talents as a performer were clear to all. After fourteen years of a successful career, Hanoch performed solo on staged for the first time. Both the album and the tour that followed failed commercially. It took a while for the public to accept the noncompromising, somber, and rough Hanoch. As time passed, the importance of Hatuna Levana was recognized, and it is now considered to be a milestone in the history of Israeli rock. This album also marks the beginning of a long collaboration between Hanoch and keyboardist-arranger Moshe Levy, a partnership that has lasted up to the early twenty-first century.

Mehakim Le'Mashiah (Waiting for the Messiah)

In 1984 (after a softer, mellower album Al P'nei ha-Adama' was produced by Levi and Hanoch), Hanoch recorded his most successful album, Mehakim Le'Mashiah, which sold over seventy thousand copies, an enormous number by Israeli standards. This album made an impact, partly because it contained what many believed to be an interesting reflection of the atmosphere at this time. In 1985 growing numbers of Israelis felt that the army should withdraw from Lebanon, that the ugly face of commercialism was dominating, and that the individual's voice was not being heard. Hanoch's album dealt with these issues, while drawing a delicate analysis between his private world (the disintegration of his marriage) and the political situation in Israel. The lyrics for one song in particular, "He Who Doesn't Stop at a Red Light" ("Lo Otzer Be'Adom") were believed to have been inspired by the personality of then-General ariel sharon. Following the album's release, Hanoch developed a new kind of a megashow. For the first time, an Israeli artist performed a limited number of concerts in stadiums and parks. In spite of all the financial risks, twenty-eight megashows took place in the course of two years.

Rak Ben Adam (Only Human)

In 1987 Hanoch produced what is considered to be his most hard-rock flavored show, Rak Ben Adam. With a band composed of his faithful partner Levi and three American players, Hanoch's intention was to change his musical environment, and give his music a fresh interpretation.

He also departed from normal practice by playing the new material in public prior to its radio premiere. The touring shows, as well as the disk, failed commercially and reviews were lukewarm. Lihi Hanoch's film (Performance Tour '88), documenting her ex-husband's tour, turned into a box-office fiasco as well.

The year 1991 saw a stylistic turnaround in the release Ba'Gilgul Hazeh (In This Incarnation), a soft and mellow disk that was produced by Levi. The following year Hanoch produced a new touring show consisting mainly of unplugged cover versions of his own materials.

In 1995 a new album, Alimut (Violence), was released. It contained heavy, depressing songs foreshadowing the violence that resulted in the assassination of Prime Minister yitzhak rabin in the same year. In a departure from habit, this new disk was not followed by a performing tour. Hanoch joined forces once again with Lahav in 1997 to produce the album Erev, Erev (Night after Night) and no performances followed this release, as well.

Over the next several years, Hanoch took a break from solo recording and turned to collaborative projects, such as composing the album Muscat for Einstein (1999) and producing a memorial album of previously unpublished songs by mentor and fellow composer Ariel (2002).

In 2003 he released a new solo album Or Yisra'eli (Israeli Light) backed up by Monica Sex (one of Israel's leading electro-rock bands). This was considered to be a bold statement, as the difference in age between Hanoch and the band members spanned several decades; a refreshing affirmation of his support of the young generation. One song from the album ("Prime Minister") directly criticized the policies of then-Prime Minister Sharon.

The following solo album, Yitziah (Exit), released in February 2004, was produced by Hanoch and Levi from a live concert and instantly sold over twenty thousand copies.

In the summer of 2005 Hanoch joined forces for the first time with veteran singer Shlomo Artzi for a series of joint concerts (Hitkhavrut; Coming Together), which was an enormous commercial success.


Hanoch is seen as an important Israeli artist, but his work has not necessarily translated well to other cultures. In 1970, buoyed by his success in Israel, Hanoch moved to London with his wife Lihi, determined to establish an identity on international music scene. The transition proved difficult for the former kibbutz member, who was on his own for the first time in a foreign country. Due in part to efforts by Lihi, British producer Dick James (an associate of the renowned producer George Martin as well as publisher of the catalogs of Elton John and the Beatles) offered Hanoch a contract. James took the young Israeli under its patronage, paying him a monthly salary and producing his first international album Shalom (1971). This album combined older translated songs from Hanoch's Israeli period with new material composed after his move to London. It was produced by Kay Kaplan with arrangements by Robert Kirby (who later worked with Elvis Costello) and employed some of London's top studio players. Shalom represented a curious mix of American country music and British rock in the style of Cat Stevens and Elton John; lack of sales prompted the termination of Hanoch's contract with James. Further attempts to negotiate contracts in Britain and France were unsuccessful. Considering that popular music usually has a cultural bias, his failure to crossover into the English-language market was not surprising. When he moved back to Israel in 1973, Hanoch said in an interview with the Maariv daily newspaper that, "in order to succeed abroad one needs to become a member of the new society. You can live a hundred years in England and remain a foreigner."


Hanoch has had an important role in Israeli popular music since 1960. He will be remembered as one of the fathers of modern Israeli popular music, having helped establish its unique flavor over the course of his long career.


"Shalom Chanoch." Hebrew Songs. Available from http://www.hebrewsongs.com.

"Shalom Chanoch." Israel Music. Available from http://www.israel-music.com.

                                             Oded Zehavi