Karel Gott (14 July 1939 – 1 October 2019) was a Czech recording artist and amateur painter, considered the most successful male singer in Czechoslovakia and the Czech Republic. He was voted the country's best male singer in the annual Český slavík (Czech Nightingale) national music award 42 times, most recently in 2017.
Karel Gott in 2018
|Also known as||Golden voice of Prague|
(Czech: Zlatý hlas z Prahy)
Sinatra of the East(Czech: Sinatra Východu)
(Czech: Božský Kája)
|Born||14 July 1939|
Plzeň, Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia
|Died||1 October 2019 (aged 80)|
Prague, Czech Republic
|Genres||Pop, rock’n’roll, swing, jazz, blues, country, rock, opera, operetta, musical, classical music, traditional, brass music|
|Occupation(s)||Singer, actor, songwriter, painter|
|Labels||Supraphon, Polydor, Electrola, Melodiya, Amiga|
Over the course of his career he released over 100 albums and 100 compilation albums, and sold an estimated 50–100 million records worldwide, 23 million of them in the German-speaking market, and about 15 million in Czechoslovakia and its successor states, the Czech Republic and Slovakia.
Gott was born in Pilsen in the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia (now Plzeň, Czech Republic), and lived in Prague from the age of six. Gott initially wanted to study art, but failed the exams at the Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design in Prague (UMPRUM), and so trained as an electrician. On completing his studies, he began working as an electrician, but also became interested in the Prague music scene, especially jazz. He experimented with playing the bass and the guitar, but eventually decided to focus on singing, studying privately. During the 1950s, he occasionally performed as an amateur singer and often participated in competitions.
In 1958, he was an unsuccessful participant in an amateur singing contest in the Prague Slavonic House, entitled "Looking for New Talent", but succeeded in obtaining his first performance slots at the Vltava Prague Cafe that same year.
In 1960, he decided to become a professional singer. He studied opera at the Prague Conservatory under Konstantin Karenin, a student of the Russian bassist Feodor Chaliapin. Knowing of Gott's interest in current musical trends, Karenin instructed him not only in classical Italian pieces, but also in popular music. Around this time Gott travelled abroad (to Poland) for the first time, with the Czechoslovak Radio Jazz Orchestra, conducted by Karel Krautgartner.
In 1962, Gott released his first single with Supraphon, a duet with the jazz singer, Vlasta Průchová entitled Až nám bude dvakrát tolik (When we are twice as old). That year Gott appeared in the first Zlatý slavík (Golden Nightingale) national poll, placing 49th with three votes. Shortly afterwards, in 1963, Gott left the conservatory to continue with private singing lessons until 1966.
In 1963 Gott was offered a place at the recently founded Semafor Theater, which was at the forefront of the emerging Czechoslovak pop music scene, his first significant experience of stage performance. In the same year, he released his first solo single, a Czech recording of Henry Mancini's Moon River, followed by his song Oči sněhem zaváté (Snowdrift Eyes), which became the year's best-selling record. Shortly afterwards, Gott received the first of fourty-two Zlatý slavík awards, given to the most popular artist of the year.
Gott established the Apollo Theater in 1965, along with two colleagues from Semafor: Jiří and Ladislav Štaidl. At this point, he was already well-known to the public, appearing in the programs Pilgrimage for Two and Evening Prayer while building a repertoire with his own orchestra. He began composing his own songs, and toured Czechoslovakia and abroad with the Apollo Theater. That year, he released his first album, Karel Gott Sings with Supraphon, followed by an English export album titled The Golden Voice of Prague (Artia-Supraphon).
In 1967, Gott performed at Midem, the music industry trade fair in Cannes, France, where the applause was measured during every concert. Gott's performance surprised observers by reaching a level of 54 (compared to 58 for Tom Jones). Following this event, Gott signed a contract with the Polydor/Deutsche Grammophon Gesellschaft record company, renewing it several times until it became a life contract in 1997. Between 1967 and 2000, Polydor released over 125 albums and 72 singles for Karel Gott in German-speaking countries. Gott represented Austria in the Eurovision Song Contest 1968 with the song Tausend Fenster, finishing in 13th place. In the same year, Gott spent six months performing nightly at the New Frontier Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.
In the 1970s, Gott achieved domestic success and appeared regularly on television, including in a ten-part serial entitled Karel Gott in Slany. In Germany, one of his most successful markets, he celebrated his breaktrough in 1970 with the song Einmal um die ganze Welt and was a star in both West Germany and East Germany. He regularly appeared in television shows like the ZDF-Hitparade.
One of his best-known hits was the title music to the animated film series Maya the Honey Bee. He recorded the theme in German, later also in Slovak and Czech for the dubbed versions in those languages. On 3 May 1977, he was awarded the title of Merited Artist, and in the following year received the Golden Hat of Cologne, awarded annually to a prominent cultural or social figure. After the publication of Charter 77, a document criticising the government of the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic, Gott took part in the anti-charter movement, in support of the government. His debut LP in the Soviet Union, released in 1977 by Melodiya, sold over 4.5 million copies, and he remains popular in the former Soviet Union countries.
Karel Gott recorded a cover version of the song All by Myself called Kam tenkrát šel můj bratr Jan (Where Did My Brother Jan Go This Time), dedicated to Jan Palach, the student activist who killed himself by self-immolation as a protest against the Soviet occupation of Czechoslovakia in January 1969. The song was recorded in 1977 while Soviet troops were still present in the country.
Towards the end of the decade, Gott began to experiment with other genres outside popular music, including country music and classical compositions, and he appeared at the Fan Fair Country Music Festival in 1979, the first of five appearances.
1980s and farewell tourEdit
The 1980s were marked by international success for Gott, including the filming of the musical In the Track of Bel Canto in Italy in 1981, with an accompanying German-Italian album, and a duet performance with Sofia Rotaru in the Soviet Union. In 1983, Gott was awarded the Gold Medal of Hermann Löns in Munich, Germany, for his role in the development of German traditional song. On 30 April 1985, he was awarded the title of National Artist for exceptional artistic contributions. In 1986, to mark 20 years with the company, he received Polydor's Golden Needle, previously only awarded to Leonard Bernstein and Herbert von Karajan. In March 1991 he was the first artist inducted into the Hall of Fame of the Academy of Popular Music, and he was awarded the Supraphon Diamond Record Award on 8 September 1992, in recognition of record sales of 13 million in Czechoslovakia.
In 1990, Gott announced the end of his career, and arranged a long farewell tour. However, the success of the tour led him to retract his decision. In 1993, he established an artistic agency, GOJA, with František Janeček, which now produces Gott's records and manages his artistic activities.
Comeback and later careerEdit
In 1996, following renewed public interest in his career, Gott again won the Český slavík (Czech Nightingale), and won the accolade every year since, with the exception of 1998 and 2012. He remained popular in a number of countries, and performed widely outside the Czech Republic. On 29 September 2000 he played a concert at Carnegie Hall in New York City.
In 2009 he was awarded a Distinguished Merit Medal by the Czech state.
In May 2019, only months before his passing, Gott released his very last song and music video - a duet "Srdce nehasnou" (Hearts will go on) with his daughter Charlotte. At the time of release, Gott's health issues were kept secret from public, but after Gott has passed, the songwriter Richard Krajco revealed he had been asked to write this duet in a very short time. Aside from the name & theme of the song, it literally contained phrase "sometimes it's known what God is preparing" in the beginning and end of the song, which hints the song was meant as a farewell.
He had two daughters (Dominika and Lucie) from different former relationships. He married his last wife, Ivana Macháčková, in January 2008 in Las Vegas, and they had two daughters, Charlotte (born in April 2006) and Nelly (born in May 2008).
During the 1990s, Gott began to focus on painting. The first exhibition of his paintings took place in 1992, at the Prague Christ Child Gallery, and his work was since exhibited in Berlin, Moscow, Munich, Cologne, Vienna, and Bratislava.
Health problems and deathEdit
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In October 2015, Gott was diagnosed with cancer of the lymph nodes. On March 18, 2016, the media announced that Karel Gott had definitely won over cancer. In mid-September 2019, however, he developed acute leukemia, due to which he canceled all upcoming appearances and started outpatient treatment. At the age of 80, he died before midnight on 1 October 2019 at home in Bertramka in a family circle. The media reported death the following morning. All major television stations in the Czech Republic have included extraordinary news or commemorative programs in their programs, and Czech Radio and Radio Impuls have also adapted their program. At an extraordinary meeting on October 2, the government approved the dispatch of a state funeral and declared the day of funeral a state mourning. A day later, Prime Minister Andrej Babiš withdrew from the intention of the state funeral, saying that it should only be a funeral with state honors, as in the case of Otakar Motejl in 2010. At the presidential chateau in Lány, the flags of the President were withdrawn at half-mast at the sign of mourning, but according to the former proto-logger Jindřich Forejt, this violated the law on the use of state symbols of the Czech Republic. The honor for the public was held on Friday, October 11, 2019 at 8 am in Prague's Žofín Palace. Fans of Karel Gott arrived from various places in Czech Republic and Germany and sacrificed several hours of standing in the 5-kilometer queue to the palace. The honor ended by midnight when in total around 49,000 mourners paid respects looking at his coffin. The requiem/funeral with state honors was held for invited guests on Saturday 12th October in the Cathedral of St. Vitus at the Prague Castle. On the same day, state mourning was also declared. The requiem guests included many famous Czech singers, actors, sportsmen but also the highest Czech priest (cardinal Dominik Duka) and the President and the prime minister of Czech republic (Miloš Zeman and Andrej Babiš).
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