Gaon, Yehoram

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GAON, YEHORAM (1939– ), Israeli pop singer, actor, television personality. Gaon is possibly the nearest thing the Israeli entertainment world has to a Mr. Consensus. Gaon was born in Jerusalem to a family steeped in Ladino traditions. As a high school student he considered an academic career in Eastern Studies but, on his recruitment to the idf, tried out successfully for the Naḥal entertainment troupe. Initially, he was accepted for his acting talents, and it was not until 1959, two years after he joined the band, that he was given his first chance to demonstrate his vocal abilities. From then on there was nothing to stop him.

Shortly after he was demobilized, Gaon joined The Roosters which included promising young singers such as Ḥanan Goldblatt, Gavri Banai, Israel Poliakov (Banai and Poliakov later made up two-thirds of renowned comedy trio *Ha-Gashash ha-Ḥiver), and Lior Yeini. The Roosters were a smash hit and turned out several hit songs before disbanding in 1963. Gaon left the group in 1961 to further his acting career. He joined the Cameri Theater and appeared in productions such as Kinneret Kinneret (1961), Torah (1963), and French Fries with Everything (1964).

In 1964 Gaon's musical career took off when he formed the highly successful Yarkon Bridge Trio, along with Arik *Einstein and Benny Amdursky. However, he left the band after just one year to pursue a solo career, releasing his debut solo album, Kol ha-Ir Merakhelet Aleinu ("The Whole Town's Talking about Us"), in 1965. The record spawned several successful singles, such as Eyfo Hen ha-Bakhurot ha-Hen ("Where Are Those Girls") and Az Areh La ("Then I'll Show Her").

In 1966 Gaon left for the United States to study theater acting and television directing but, at the end of the year, returned to Israel to audition for the musical Kazablan. He got the lead role and the show was an enormous success, and only ended when Gaon decided he had had enough.

Gaon's superstar status was cemented when he won the first two places in the 1969 Israeli Song Festival and put out a string of hit singles and albums throughout the 1970s, including Rosa and Mediterranean Love. During this period he also maintained his theater and cinema interests, playing star roles in such movies as Kol Mamzer Melekh ("Every Bastard's A King") and Mivẓa Yonatan (Entebbe: Operation Thunderbolt). Later he starred in a popular tv series called "Neighbors. Neighbors."

His musical career tailed off in the 1990s but in 2003 he became a popular tv personality when he began to present a musical talk show called Gaon on Friday. In 2004 Gaon received the ultimate accolade when he was awarded the prestigious Israel Prize for his services to Israeli popular music.

[Barry Davis (2nd ed.)]