Saturday, November 1, 2008
Found! Israeli song bird, Hanna Ahroni!
Fewer of our finds have been as alluring as the Hannah Ahroni Sings Songs of Israel which we discovered on one of our collecting sorties in the thrift stores of Boca. A beautiful songbird cutting a ripe, exotic, and confident figure, laughing casually against the backdrop of a freshly harvested wheat field. How many young Americans were enticed to move to Israel by this record cover alone when it was released in 1962?
Ahroni (also variously spelled Aharoni and Aroni) was the most succesful of a gaggle of Israeli female solo performers who broke in America at the same time -- Yaffa Yarkoni, Shoshana Damari and Geula Gill were also soulful and stunning -- but there was something about this cover that haunted us and forced us to track her down. When we went round to meet her last week, Uptown in Manhattan, we had the same sense of trepidation as if we were visiting Kathy Ireland or Elle Macpherson.
We are delighted to report, age has dimmed little of her beauty. Her apartment is covered with mementos from a career which saw her play Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, and Caesar's Palace which she opened with a month long residence alongside Johnny Mathis. A hallway plastered with album covers was as beautiful to us as anything in the Louvre.
We heard tales of her career which blossomed under the guidance of her manager and husband, the legendary Chaim Tishman, who carefully surrounded her with talent. Tishman persuaded H.B. Barnum, Aretha Franklin's producer, to make A Taste of Hanna (RCA, 1963) the record which made her a household name on American television where she starred in an hour-long special with Paul Anka, and shared a bill for a month with Harry Belafonte at the Hilton Plaza in Miami. Rock out to these two tracks soaked in sobbing vocals and heart-tugging horn arrangements, her version of A Taste of Honey, a song made famous by Herb Alpert, and a haunting version of Hava Nagila.
Hanna's real fame came in South America where her show "An Hour With Hanna Ahroni" made her a legend in Mexico, Argentina, and Brazil. The song which put her over the top, Viva Espana, which she originally recorded as a throwaway during a recording session in Germany, was faintly audible all over Europe in the early '70s. Enjoy it here on German TV and marvel, as the German producers do, in her polyglot abilities...