Hitman, Uzi

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HITMAN, UZI (1952–2004), Israeli pop singer-songwriter. Like many of his contemporaries, Hitman started his musical career as a member of an army entertainment troupe. On his release from the idf in 1973, he joined forces with singer Lior Yeini in a program of Hebrew versions of songs made famous by Greek vocalist Mikis Theodorakis. This was followed by a successful duet with Noga Shalem, singing "Little Bird." In 1974 Hitman achieved some measure of national prominence – though as a backup artist – when he supported star singer Ilanit in that year's National Song Contest, placing second. It was around this time that Hitman began to become known as a songwriter, writing compositions for such top performers of the time as Avi Toledano, Yizhar Cohen, and Dudu Zakai. The song he wrote for Zakai, "Why Don't the Grownups Learn from the Little Ones," won third place at the Children's Song Contest.

His first big break came in 1976, when he sang Adon Olam together with Oded Ben-Hur at that year's Ḥasidic Song Contest. The song was a smash hit, both in Israel and abroad, and became something of an anthem for Hitman. Later that year he started a fruitful long-term collaboration with singer Shimi Tavori. In 1978, Hitman produced another hit, Ratziti she-Teda (Elohim Sheli) ("I Wanted You To Know (My God)"), which was inspired by the historic visit to Israel of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and was an entry in that year's Children's Song Festival. By now, Hitman had made a name for himself as a major contributor of children's songs and, in the 1980s, he became a household name as presenter of the popular children's television program Pretty Butterfly.

In addition to his popularity in the junior market sector, in the 1980s Hitman varied his output, writing numerous songs for so-called Mediterranean singers, such as Zohar *Argov, Haim Moshe, and Margalit Tzanani. In 1985 Hitman's career took another turn when he teamed up with veteran singer Yigal Bashan and American-born singer-fiddler Jonathon Miller to perform Kemo Ẓo'ani ("Like A Gypsy") at the 1985 Pre-Eurovision Song Contest. The song became a hit and the threesome embarked on a series of successful national tours and television appearances. In 1989 and 1993 Hitman released two unsuccessful albums, although several well-received singles came out of them. Throughout the 1990s Hitman released several highly popular videotapes of children's songs, and wrote more hits for other artists, particularly Kan ("Here") for husband-wife duo Orna and Moshe Datz, which placed third in the 1991 Eurovision Song Contest.

In 2001 Hitman received a Life Achievement Award from acum (the organization responsible for protecting Israeli artists' rights) and in 2004 began work on a new album. Sadly, later that year Hitman died of a heart attack at the age of only 52. The following year, a double album of Hitman's compositions featuring such top artists as Ariel Zilber and Uri Harpaz, entitled Akhshav ha-Tor le-Ahavah ("Now's the Time for Love"), was completed and released.

[Barry Davis (2nd ed.)]