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Late legendary Israeli singer Ofra Haza joins Rolling Stone’s top 200 singers of all time

‘The Madonna of the Middle East’ is known for her unique Middle Eastern pop style that gained her international fame before she died in tragic circumstances

Israeli singer Ofra Haza, 1987 (Photo: Moshe Shai/Flash90)

Late Israeli singer Ofra Haza joined Rolling Stone Magazine’s “200 Greatest Singers of All Time” list, published this Sunday. 

The music-industry magazine ranked Haza number 186, topping singers such as Kelly Clarkson, Billie Eilish, Brandy and others. Aretha Franklin and Whitney Houston came in first and second, respectively.

“Like a call to prayer, the opening phrase of Ofra Haza’s 1984 song ‘Im Nin’alu’ is instantly transportive, sweeping the listener up in her expressive, fluttery mezzo-soprano,” the magazine wrote of her. “Inspired by her Yemeni-Jewish ancestry, Haza combined traditional vocal conventions with modern technique to create something that felt at once ancient and ahead of its time.” 

Haza’s voice might be familiar to American audiences from her performance of the lullaby portion of “Deliver Us” in the animated film “The Prince of Egypt.” The performer was also chosen to sing at the 1994 Nobel Peace Prize ceremony, in which Yitzhak Rabin, Shimon Peres and Yasser Arafat were awarded for the Oslo peace accords. 

Dubbed “The Madonna of the Middle East,” Haza was born in Tel Aviv in 1957 to a Jewish family of Yemenite descent. She became a pop icon by the age of 19, recognized for her unique musical style that combines traditional Middle Eastern sounds and dance beats. 

By the late 1980s, Haza became an internationally successful artist. She appeared on MTV, represented Israel in the Eurovision Song Contest and scored many platinum and gold discs. 

In 2000, Haza died of AIDS at the age of 42. The cause of her death and her diagnosis were concealed even from her closest circle, stirring rumors and controversy in Israel, which mourned her loss. 

Tal Heinrich is a senior correspondent for both ALL ISRAEL NEWS and ALL ARAB NEWS. She is currently based in New York City. Tal also provides reports and analysis for Israeli Hebrew media Channel 14 News.

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