“The day the music died”…if you’re a radio geek like me and you have any knowledge of New York City radio, that phrase immediately conjures up memories of the end of Musicradio WABC on May 10, 1982 – the day this legendary radio station transitioned from music to talk, leaving its many fans grieving its loss.
Exactly 35 years later to the day, May 10, 2017, Israel’s Reshet Gimmel signed off for the very last time.
(I don’t know if that’s an extremely eerie coincidence or brilliant orchestration. But either way, it’s pretty darn cool.)
To me, when starting out in Israeli music radio back in 1994, Reshet Gimmel was legendary. The station had recently taken a bold step…to become the only radio station in Israel to play Israeli music exclusively. Their tagline became “Rak Muzika Yisraelit” (“only Israeli music”), a battle cry still heard on the station until this past week. Back in New Jersey, I became its champion. If you go to Israel, I would tell people, you’ll have a hard time finding Israeli music on the radio…UNLESS you listen to the amazing Reshet Gimmel.
Had I ever even heard the station? Nope. But that only added to its appeal and allure.
Back then, there was no internet, and we in the States had no way to tune in. So on my next trip to Israel, I listened CONSTANTLY. On busses, in cars, in my hotel room, while visiting relatives. I couldn’t get enough. During my all-too-brief trips to Israel, I felt more connected to Israeli music than ever, thanks to the wonderful men and women and music of Reshet Gimmel.
Somewhere along the way, I connected with Amnon Shiloni and Menachem Granit, two of the leaders of the station. What a thrill it was to visit the iconic studios on Heleni HaMalka Street in Jerusalem! While American radio stations are typically headquartered in sleek, shiny office buildings, Reshet Gimmel was located in an unassuming complex on a quiet street, with a quaint outdoor courtyard separating offices and studios. We developed a relationship with the station, and I soon found myself the beneficiary of Reshet Gimmel’s “leftover” CDs. At a time when new Israeli music wasn’t easily accessible in the US, their care packages were most welcome.
When they began broadcasting online in the late 90s…wow. It was a whole new world, and my dialup internet connection and I spent many a night listening live (amidst lots of “buffering”). As time went on and the technology improved, it was a treat and a pleasure to tune in live at home, at work, in my car and on my Amazon Echo in the kitchen. I was more connected than ever before…tuning in for special holiday programming, live concert broadcasts, weekly countdown shows and even the daily broadcast of the “Shema” heard at 6 am Israel time, 11 pm Eastern time. I always looked forward to Reshet Gimmel’s annual countdown of the top songs of the year right before Rosh Hashana, and its Yom Ha’atzmaut programming offered the next best thing to being there.
And then, last Wednesday…they were gone.
I listened to that final broadcast in disbelief. I didn’t catch the name of the host that closed up shop, but his remarks at that last show reflected sadness, optimism, anger, frustration and shock. The entire staff was gathered, at 1 am Israel time, to say farewell to their beloved radio station – and you could just feel the pain in the room coming through the airwaves. It’s hard not to feel for these amazing men and women, from newscasters to radio DJs to those working behind the scenes, who are losing their jobs, their friends and their passions.
And why? All because of a bizarre political system that has been playing games with staffers for years now…leaving Kol Yisrael news, Israel’s Channel One, numerous radio stations and now Israel’s participation in the Eurovision Song Contest as its casualties.
I have no idea what to expect when the new management team takes over on Monday. I can only hope that someone, somehow will fill the void.
Thanks for the memories, Reshet Gimmel.