Yaffa Yarkoni (December 24, 1925 – January 1, 2012) was one of the prominent singers in Israel and is the Israel Prize for Hebrew Song recipient in 1998. She was associated with the establishment of the state of Israel and was extremely popular in the 1950s and 1960s.
Yaffa Yarkoni was born as Yaffa Abramov in South Tel Aviv, to parents who immigrated to the land in the early 1920s from Baku, in the Caucasus. Her musical journey began at her family's coffeehouse, which her mother opened and named "Tzil" in Givat Ram (Givatayim) in the 1930s. Initially, she performed as a dancer, but after injuring her leg in 1945, she began to sing. In her youth, she studied dance and piano at Gertrude Krause's classical dance studio.
In 1944, she married Yosef Gustine. Shortly after their marriage, Gustine volunteered for the Jewish Brigade of the British Army and was killed on the Italian front in March 1945 (WWII). The song "Uri" was written in his memory by Raphael Klatchkin and Yisaschar Mirun. In 1947, Yaffa volunteered for the Haganah organization and joined the "Chishtron" band as a singer. The band mainly performed "salon" songs, which were intended for dancing, such as tangos, waltzes, foxtrots, and more. One of the main composers in this style was the composer Bobby Pinachsi. Many other songs were written for her and became symbols of the Independence War of 1948, including "Haminayim Yavo Yom" and "Ba'av El Wad," written by the poet Haim Gouri. In 1948, she remarried to Shayke Yarkoni.
With the establishment of the state, Yaffa Yarkoni recorded her songs in the "Radio Doctor" studio. Her first record is considered the first pop record to be recorded in the country, and included Einaim Yerukot (Green Eyes). In the 1950s and 1960s, she became a leading singer in the country, and her songs were widely heard on the radio, making her voice reach every household in Israel. In addition, her songs were used for dances and became popular children's songs. One of her important albums is "Songs from the Kinneret" with songs written by Naomi Shemer, who was then an unknown songwriter, and thanks to Yaffa Yarkoni's recordings, she began to gain recognition. Yarkoni participated in various singing festivals, children's festivals, and numerous performances in the country. From the 1950s to the 1990s, she embarked on several international tours, mainly in the United States, South America, and Europe.
In 1996, Yaffa Yarkoni released the duets album "Shirim Im Yaffa Yarkoni" (Singing with Yaffa Yarkoni), where she performed her songs with top artists, including Shoshana Damari, Arik Einstein, and Chava Alberstein.
In 1998, She received the Israel Prize in 1998 on the jubilee year of the State of Israel. The same year, a compilation album of Yaffa Yarkoni's songs was released called "Yaffa Yarkoni From Then Until Today, 1998-1948". The album also included a new song called "Rokedet" (Dancer), written by Naomi Shemer, based on Yarkoni's life story. The song depicted her beginnings as a dancer, her performances during the War of Independence, her songs about war and peace, and her efforts to bring hearts closer together.
In the summer of 2000, Yarkoni recorded her last song, "Achshav Avru Shanah" (Now Years Have Passed, and It's Hard to Remember). In the same year, a triple-disc collection featuring 62 hits was released.
Yaffa Yarkoni was known for her involvement in the life of the state. She performed hundreds of shows in front of soldiers during Israel's wars and in between them. She was not deterred from appearing right at the front lines of the battles and earned the nickname "the singer of wars," although she didn't particularly like it and preferred to be called "the soldiers' singer." In 2001, Yarkoni was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, and her condition worsened in 2008. She passed away on January 1, 2012, at the age of 86, and was buried alongside her husband Shaike at the Kiryat Shaul Cemetery.