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20 November 1938|
Aleksinac, Kingdom of Yugoslavia
|Died||30 September 1991
Tomislav "Toma" Zdravković was an outstanding figure on Serbian folk scene; a true bohemian and a poet, he lived up to his sad songs. The songs, although having the form of Serbian folk music, had spirit of chansons. He had a characteristic vocal, not too powerful but warm, resembling the one of Charles Aznavour. The violin underlined the melancholic atmosphere in most songs. Most of the lyrics were written by Zdravković, devoted to unfortunate love, and love-suffering while drinking and singing in omnipresent kafanas. He married four times, and settled only with his fourth wife Gordana in the late years.
Some of Zdravković's most renowned songs are Prokleta nedelja ("Cursed Sunday"), Dotak'o sam dno života ("I Touched the Bottom of Life"), Ostala je samo uspomena ("Only a Memory Remained"), Pustite me da živim svoj život ("Let Me Live My Own Life") and testimonial Pesme moje ("My Songs").
Tomislav Zdravković, nickname Toma, was born in a Aleksinac,and he lived in Pecenjevce near Leskovac in Yugoslavia. He had four siblings, and grew up in poverty. There was a high rate of unemployment in his village,father Dusan and mother Kosara and when he turned 18, he decided to look for a job as a singer in the town of Leskovac. Unfortunately, he didn't have any friends to help him find a job as a singer or forward his singing career. In his biography book, it is mentioned that the popular Bosnian singer Silvana Armenulić met him in a park in Leskovac in 1958 where she grew fond of him, resulting in her aiding him, and Zdravković eventually broke through and became a singer in a kafana in Leskovac called "Dubočica". His unique voice talent was one of its kind and people wanted to hear him more, and thus he became popular in the town. He wanted to see if people in other towns would like him, too, so he moved to Tuzla, Bosnia and Herzegovina where he sang in the Bristol hotel. His shows were sold out every single night, and he started thinking of composing his own songs.
Zdravković's first album was named Essagerata, released in 1964. The album consisted of 4 songs:
- Žena moga druga (La Femme De Mon Ami)
- Deca Zemlje (Enfants De Tous Pays)
- Što te večeras nema
Three songs, "Essagerata", "Žena moga druga" and "Deca naše zemlje", were actually just translations of foreign songs of authors Neil Sedaka and Enrico Macias, but the song "Što te večeras nema" was composed and written by Zdravković, and it was his first published self-written song. His actual first written song was "Andjela", which was released later, in 1968.
...The first time I saw the album was in the "Albanija" record store in Belgrade. I got in to see if somebody would buy my album. And there were these two girls looking for an album, but the saleswoman did not know the song. "...something like: my friend, and a woman, and my friend again..." I realized that it was my album, "Le Femme De Mon Ami", from Enrico Macias. The saleswoman said that they didn't have the album. I was a bit disdainful, since the album was mine, and I knew that they did in fact have it: "Up there, there it is," I said. The saleswoman put it on so they could listen to it. The girls were delighted. One of them commented, while holding and looking at the album cover: "It's true, he sings fine, but he is nasty!" I got out as quickly as I could, so they wouldn't recognize me...
Although he expected a major boom, there was almost no response from the audience and Toma was hugely disappointed. But, he continued releasing albums and continuously changed places, kafanas and hotels where he was the resident singer. He sang all over Yugoslavia, from Bosnia to Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia and Croatia.
In 1964, his first true love, a girl named Slavica which Toma loved, although she cheated on him, died at the age of 20 after a difficult disease. Zdravković was shocked, and wrote a song named "Buket belih ruža" (A Bouquet of White Roses), but published it years later, and the song is still considered his saddest song, and one of the most depressing songs in Yugoslavian music history.
But still, he did not achieve the so wanted fame with his own songs. Until 1969, when he attended the "Ilidža 1969" music festival, and won the second place with the song "Odlazi, odlazi" written by Blagoje Kašanin. Later, around 100,000 copies of the album were sold. And, when Zdravković wrote a song for his friend, Meho Puzić, and it sold around 500,000 (some sources say even 700,000) copies, Zdravković knew it will not be long until he made it to the big ones.
In 1969, he and Silvana Armenulić sang in the same group, and Zdravković, to express his gratitude to her for helping him out, wrote the song "Šta će mi život".
...We met a lot, in different towns of Yugoslavia, and in 1969, we sang in the same band. I was already a well known and requested composer. She was completely down. She was depressed all the time and wanted me to write her a song. But what? All of my songs were inspired by my sympathies and love-life, but we were good ol' friends. I had no inspiration. Until one day, I went drinking with my friends, we were drunk for three days in a row, and the fourth day I woke up at a hotel, went down to the lounge, ordered a cup of coffee and just like that, I was hungover and wrote "Šta će mi život". I recorded the song in the studio and wanted to use it for a festival coming up, but when she heard it, she wanted to have it. And what could I do? It was her song, inspired by her life, and her problems. I gave her the song and it was a bingo. I wish I had never written it. She died seven years later, it was like the song came true...
The song became one of the biggest folk hits ever written in Yugoslavia and transformed Silvana Armenulić, and Zdravković himself, into superstars. But Armenulić's life ironically ended seven years later.
Zdravković later published his own version of the song.
In 1972, he married for the third time and after a few months, the marriage broke. Zdravković fell into alcohol addiction and his old bohemian life, and near to dying. In two years, he spent all the money he earned in his 10-year music career. He decided for a move to Canada and a try of settling down. He met his last, fourth wife Gordana and later, his son Aleksandar was born. In 1978, he and his family decided for a move back to Yugoslavia for a new try.
Return to Yugoslavia
Zdravković returned to Yugoslavia and published a song "Umoran sam od života" ("I am tired of life") and immediately became a best-selling artist again. He couldn't believe that the crowds didn't forget him and continued making hits and returned to singing in kafanas and hotels across Yugoslavia. In 1982, he held his first concert in the Belgrade "Dom sindikata", after 26 year of singing. His major hits like "Danka", "Ciganka" ("A little Gypsy girl"), "Prokleta nedelja" ("Damned Sunday") and many others finally came to life, and with cassettes being introduced to the public, music was available to more people.
He started receiving different all kinds of offers; He acted in the movie "Balkan Express" and in the TV series "Doktorka na Selu".
He organized a few concert tours around Yugoslavia and maintained the fame he gained. In the last years of his life he sang a lot, and enjoyed the singing as if he knew it would be over soon. He held his last concert in Podgorica, Montenegro, 20 days before he died.
"He sat all the time and at the end, he said: 'Your Toma Zdravković has just held his last concert.' The hall just fell in shock and 20 days after that, he died."
- O majko, majko (1971.)
- Nikad neću da te zaboravim (1976.)
- Umoran sam od života (1979.)
- Čekaj me (1981.)
- Prokleta nedelja (1982.)
- Dva smo sveta različita (1983.)
- Dotak'o sam dno života (1984.)
- E moj brate (1986.)
- Da li je moguće (1987.)
- Evo me opet (1988.)
- Kafana je moja sudbina (1990.)