February 17, 2013
Shmulik Kraus dies from swine flu in Tel Aviv at age 77 after a long career as one of Israel’s most influential musicians.
Kraus was born in Jerusalem on July 1, 1935, and taught tap dance in Haifa when he was young. After serving in Israel’s navy, he worked as a merchant seamen before turning to music as a career in the late 1950s. He formed the Ofarim Trio with Esther and Avi Ofarim, then in 1966 launched Ha-Halanot Hagvohim (The High Windows) with his wife at the time, Josie Katz, and Arik Einstein. Kraus composed all of The High Windows’ songs, which established Israel’s pop-rock scene. The group put out only one, self-titled album, but several of its songs are considered Israeli pop classics, including “Einech Yechola,” “Kol HaShavua Lach” and “Ahava Rishona.”
Kraus and Katz performed and recorded together through the 1970s before divorcing. Kraus continued to write and produce songs for Einstein and other Israeli artists as well as record his own music.
Kraus pioneered Israeli psychedelic rock in 1971 with the album “The State of Israel vs. Shmuel Kraus,” which he wrote during a brief stay in an Israeli jail cell and recorded in two hours. It was released decades later in the United States as “A Criminal Record.” He had been arrested after an armed standoff over a house he built on a one-acre plot north of Jerusalem that he said he inherited from his father; Israeli authorities rejected the validity of an Ottoman deed to the land. It was one of several times Kraus had trouble with the law, in addition to a couple of stays in a mental hospital.
Kraus’ cultural influence extended to children’s music based on the poems of Miriam Yalan-Shteklis and acting roles in such films as “Hole in the Moon” (1964), “Rockinghorse” (1978) and “The Ambassador” (1984). Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon selected Kraus’ “Hatishma Koli” to play in orbit on the doomed space shuttle Columbia in 2003.
In 2006, Kraus received a lifetime achievement award from the Ministry of Education despite his history of legal troubles.