1962: Hillel Slovak

Welcome to 70 Faces of Israel. To celebrate 70 years since the establishment of the State of Israel, we’re looking at 70 people whose remarkable stories have changed our country and the world.


Name: Hillel Slovak

Date of Birth: 13th April 1962, Haifa, Israel

Date of Death: 25th June 1988, LA, USA

Claim to Fame: Founding Member of the Red Hot Chili Peppers

In 1962… Slovak was born




Hillel Slovak

Slovak playing guitar (source: wikimedia/flickr/FlickreviewR)

Slovak was born in Haifa, Israel, to Holocaust survivor Jewish parents. They left Israel for Queens, NY, then moved to southern California. As a child, Slovak loved art. He received his first guitar as a Bar Mitzvah present and began playing, citing hard rock artists like Led Zeppelin and Jimi Hendrix as his main influences.


Hillel formed his band with high school friends. The group went through several songs, gigs, and name changes before they became the Red Hot Chili Peppers. They wrote their own music and regularly played in local clubs and bars. The band members moved to Hollywood and secured record deals.


Slovak developed a serious heroin addiction which plagued his adult life. He tried to quit multiple times but never succeeded. Eventually, Hillel Slovak died of a heroin overdose in 1988 at just 26 years of age.


The Legacy of Hillel Slovak


Slovak’s unique style shaped the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ early sound. In fact, he was so influential that when trying to find a new guitarist, his bandmates described the process as “shopping for a new mom and dad”. He experimented with different musical sounds and styles, believed in improvisation, and inspired both his bandmates and an entire generation to love hard rock.


The Red Hot Chili Peppers dedicated several songs to their deceased founder, as well as an entire album to battling addiction. In 1999, Hillel’s brother published a book of the musician’s diaries and paintings called “Behind the Sun: The Diary and Art of Hillel Slovak”. In 2012 the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inducted the band; Slovak’s brother accepted the honour on his behalf.


Previously: 1961: Moshe Landau

Up next: 1963: Levi Eshkol