Local reggae singer and New Door Records recording artist Joseph Israel passed away Friday after a battle with cancer.
Israel, born in Tulsa as Joseph Montgomery Fennel, 41, combined elements of soul, jazz, folk, world music, and reggae to create a unique, infectious sound. Israel developed a taste for the genre at an early age, and when his parents began taking him on regular visits to Jamaica, his taste for the style intensified.
He based his career out of Fayetteville — before ultimately relocating to California — and formed the roots band Kepha in the city in 2000. That group released an album and disbanded soon after. He then formed Lions of Israel, and began touring as a support act for Ziggy Marley. Marley’s bassist Chris Meredith took a shine to Israel and took him to Kingston, Jamaica, to record at the legendary Tuff Gong Studios (which Marley’s acclaimed father, Bob Marley, established in 1965). It was there Israel recorded his debut album, 2005’s Gone Are the Days. In 2008, Israel released the download-only EP Teach Your Children, to benefit Restore Humanity, a non-profit charitable outfit, assisting the needs of oppressed and poverty-stricken families worldwide. Following its release, Israel toured the U.S., performing in various cities. In 2013, Israel released what would be his second, and final album, Kingdom Road.
A GoFundMe page has been established to help Israel’s family pay for medical expenses. Israel is survived by his family, including his wife Kristy, and their three children.