By COLlive reporter
Musician Yosi Piamenta, one of the most beloved and veteran voices in the Jewish music scene, passed away on Sunday, Elul 8, 5775.
He was 64 and suffered from a terrible illness in the past year.
An Orthodox Jewish singer-songwriter and guitarist, known for introducing the electric guitar to Jewish music, Piamenta played rock and roll tunes, often infused with heavy rock licks and extended guitar solos — all while dressed in Jewish Orthodox religious clothing and singing Biblical Hebrew lyrics. Piamenta has been widely acknowledged by rock critics as a guitar virtuoso.
In addition to being an original songwriter, Piamenta covered others’ music in the religious Jewish music category — his album Songs of the Rebbes includes various Lubavitch, Belz and Sephardi nigunim and Zemirot — as well as secular American music.
Piamenta was born in Jerusalem, Israel in 1951 to Yehuda and Genia Piamenta. In 1962, when he was 12 years old, Piamenta moved with his family to Tel Aviv, Israel. There, he received his first guitar from his uncle, Albert Piamenta, an Israeli saxophonist. Growing up, he practiced traditional Judaism.
In his 20s, Piamenta moved to New York, together with his brother, Avi Piamenta, with the intention of working on a joint album with American saxophone player Stan Getz. The album was a success but Piamenta disapproved of the entertainment industry lifestyle and turned to religion, joining the Orthodox Jewish community.
After getting married in London, Piamenta returned to the United States and fulfilled his dream to meet the Lubavitcher Rebbe whose teachings he had been reading in a column in the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Aharonot.
“I really liked his Jewish philosophy and identified with everything he has written,” Piamenta said years later. “When I came to visit him in Brooklyn, I was immediately hooked. I saw a man with a divine image. It was an electrifying encounter. He had a halo over his head and eyes that touch the Jewish sentiment and heart.”
After that meeting, Piamenta went home looking for his pair of Tefillin. When he left Israel, he took them with him to remind him of home. He decided to start using them for the first time since his Bar Mitzvah.
Piamenta received many blessings from the Rebbe over the years and merited to perform in front of the Rebbe on numerous occasions together with his brother, Avi, who was also on a journey back towards Judaism.
The two sang at the farbrengens the Rebbe held at the main shul of Lubavitch World Headquarters at 770 Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn, Simchas Beis Hashoeva street celebrations in Crown Heights, weddings and sold-out concerts around the globe.
Piamenta lived in Flatbush, New York, for over 20 years before moving back to Israel.
In August 2014, Piamenta – together with Avi Piamenta and Naftali Kalfa – released a single, “Yaancha,” calling it a “prayer for Piamenta’s recovery.”
On April 14, 2015, Piamenta’s Facebook page disclosed that “Yosi is not doing well” and asked fans to “Please pray your hearts out.” On April 17, 2015 Piamenta fell into a coma; he woke up from the coma two days later.
In August of 2015 the Piamenta’s condition took a turn for the worse. He passed away on Sunday at Cornell Medical Center in New York.
He is survived by his children Geni Barakat, Tzippy Rush, Moni Piamenta, Yuda Piamenta, Racheli Piamenta, and Avi Piamenta, all of Flatbush, NY.
He is also survived by his siblings, Mrs. Chaya Meer – Morristown, NJ, Mrs. Chana Lorber – Kfar Chabad, Israel, and Avi Piamenta – Kfar Chabad, Israel.
The levaya will take place tonight, Sunday, leaving Shomrei Ha’chomos funeral home, 4218 Ft Hamilton Parkway, Brooklyn, NY at 7:30 pm.
Passing by 770 Eastern Parkway at 9:30 pm, on the way to Israel.
Baruch Dayan Haemes.