Karel Gott

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Karel Gott
K GOTT PRAHA 2016.jpg
Karel Gott in 2016
Background information
Born (1939-07-14) July 14, 1939 (age 77)
Origin Pilsen, Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia
Genres pop, rock’n’roll, swing, jazz, blues, country, rock, opera, operetta, musical, classical music, traditional, brass music
Occupation(s) Singer, actor, songwriter, painter
Years active 1958–present
Labels Supraphon,[1] Polydor, Electrola, Melodiya, Amiga
Website www.karelgott.com

Karel Gott (born 14 July 1939, in Plzeň) is a Czech singer, and an amateur painter. He is considered the most successful male singer in the former Czechoslovakia and the Czech Republic,[2][3] and has been voted the country's best male singer in the annual Český slavík (Czech Nightingale) national poll 41 times, most recently in 2016. He has also achieved considerable success in the German-speaking countries, where he is known as "the Golden Voice of Prague",[2][4] winning the Goldene Stimmgabel award three times (1982, 1984, and 1995). Over the course of his career he has released over 100 albums and 100 compilation albums,[2] and has 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 (Czech Republic and Slovakia).[5]

Early life[edit]

Gott was born in Pilsen, in the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia (now Plzeň, Czech Republic),[3] and has lived in Prague since the age of six.[3] His family was of German Bohemian descent, but has assimilated into Czech national identity. Gott initially wanted to study art, but failed the exams at the Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design in Prague (UMPRUM),[3] and so trained as an electrician. On completing his studies, he began working as an electrician,[3] but also became interested in the Prague music scene, especially jazz.[3] He experimented with playing the bass and the guitar, but eventually decided to focus on singing, studying privately.[3] During the 1950s, he occasionally performed as an amateur singer and often participated in competitions.[4]

Early career[edit]

In 1958, he was an unsuccessful participant in an amateur singing contest in the Prague Slavonic House, entitled "Looking for New Talent",[3] but succeeded in obtaining his first performance slots at the Vltava Prague Cafe that same year.[2][4][3]

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.[4][3] Knowing of Gott's interest in current musical trends, Karenin instructed him not only in classical Italian pieces, but also in popular music.[3] Around this time Gott travelled abroad (to Poland) for the first time, with the Czechoslovak Radio Jazz Orchestra, conducted by Karel Krautgartner.[4]

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).[4] That year Gott appeared in the first Zlatý slavík (Golden Nightingale) national poll, placing 49th with three votes.[4] Shortly afterwards, in 1963, Gott left the conservatory to continue with private singing lessons until 1966.[4]

In 1963 Gott was offered a place at the recently founded Semafor Theater, which was at the forefront of the emerging Czechoslovakian pop music scene, his first significant experience of stage performance.[3] In the same year, he released his first solo single, a Czech recording of Henry Mancini's Moon River,[4] followed by his song Oči sněhem zaváté (Snowdrift Eyes),[2] which became the year's best-selling record. Shortly afterwards, Gott received the first of thirty-four Zlatý slavík awards, given to the most popular artist of the year.[2]

Gott established the Apollo Theater in 1965, along with two colleagues from Semafor: Jiří and Ladislav Štaidl.[3] 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.[3] He began composing his own songs, and toured Czechoslovakia and abroad with the Apollo Theater.[3] 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).[2][4]

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).[3] 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.[3] Between 1967 and 2000, Polydor released over 125 albums and 72 singles for Karel Gott in German-speaking countries.[3] 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.[4][3]

1970s[edit]

Karel Gott with German composer Ralph Siegel in Prague, 2014

In the 1970s, Gott achieved domestic success and appeared regularly on television, including in a ten-part serial entitled Karel Gott in Slany.[2][4] One of his best-known hits was the title music to the animated film series Biene Maja (English title: The Adventures of Maya the Bee).[2] On 3 May 1977, he was awarded the title of Merited Artist,[4] and in the following year received the Golden Hat of Cologne, awarded annually to a prominent cultural or social figure.[4] 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 Russia, released in 1977 by Melodiya, sold over 4.5 million copies, and he remains popular in the former Soviet Union countries.[3]

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,[4] the first of five appearances.[3]

1980s and farewell tour[edit]

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 a accompanying German-Italian album,[4] and a duet performance with Sofia Rotaru in the Soviet Union.[6] In 1983, Gott was awarded the Gold Medal of Hermann Lönse in Munich, Germany, for his role in the development of German traditional song.[4] On 30 April 1985, he was awarded the title of National Artist for exceptional artistic contributions.[2][4] 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.[4] In March 1991 he was the first artist inducted into the Hall of Fame of the Academy of Popular Music,[2][4] and he was awarded the Supraphon Diamond Record Award on 8 September 1992, in recognition of record sales of 13 million in Czechoslovakia.[2][4][3]

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.[3]

Comeback and later career[edit]

Karel Gott during a concert in Edmonton

In 1996, following renewed public interest in his career, Gott again won the Český slavík (Czech Nightingale),[4] and has won the accolade every year since, with the exception of 1998 and 2012. He remains popular in a number of countries, and has performed widely outside the Czech Republic. On 29 September 2000 he played a concert at Carnegie Hall in New York City.[3][4]

Karel Gott, Filip Albrecht and Helena Vondráčková in the studio, 2004

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,[citation needed] 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.[citation needed] In order to continue in his career, he had to sign the so-called "Anti-charter", a petition organized by the Communist government against Charter 77 signed by Václav Havel and other dissidents, protesting the government's violations of the Helsinki Accords. In 2008, he appeared on Bushido's album Heavy Metal Payback, performing a duet called "Für immer jung", a cover of "Forever Young" by Alphaville.

In 2009 he was awarded a Distinguished Merit Medal by the Czech state.[2]

His German lyricist since 2001 has been Filip Albrecht, who has written over 20 songs for him.[7] In May 2014 Gott released his autobiography Zwischen zwei Welten (Between two worlds).[8]

Personal life[edit]

He has two adult daughters (Dominika and Lucie) from different former relationships. He married his current wife, Ivana Macháčková, in January 2008 in Las Vegas,[9] and they have two daughters, Charlotte Ella (born 30 April 2006) and Nelly Sofie (born 28 May 2008).

In October 2015, he was diagnosed with a malignant cancer of the lymph nodes. On 18 March 2016 it was reported that he had beaten cancer.[10]

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 has since been exhibited in Berlin, Moscow, Munich, Cologne, Vienna, and Bratislava.[4]

Discography[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Melodie (1999). "Supraphon". Retrieved 2008-10-27. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m "Karel Gott". Hello Czech Republic. Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Retrieved 10 April 2017. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x Adam, Jan. "Karel Gott: Biography". www.karelgott.com. Retrieved 10 April 2017. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x Drotárová, Zuzana. "Karel Gott". www.gott.cz. Retrieved 10 April 2017. 
  5. ^ "Die Heiterkeit des Seins". Die Zeit. 24 May 2014. Retrieved 26 December 2014. 
  6. ^ "PRAŽSKÝ EXPRES" [СОФИЯ РОТАРУ: "ВЕРЬТЕ В СЕБЯ!"]. EX PRESS MEDIA spol, s.r.o. 
  7. ^ "Textů pro Karla Gotta jsem napsal asi dvacet říká německý textař Filip Albrecht". novinky.cz. 31 January 2014. Retrieved 20 December 2014. 
  8. ^ "Die Heiterkeit des Seins". Die Zeit. 24 May 2014. Retrieved 26 December 2014. 
  9. ^ Fraňková, Ruth (January 8, 2008). "Czech singer Karel Gott married in Las Vegas". Radio Prague. Retrieved November 8, 2014. 
  10. ^ "Zdravotní stav Karla Gotta – léčba rakoviny". www.slavik-karel-gott.cz. Retrieved 10 April 2017. 

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Peter Horton
Austria in the Eurovision Song Contest
1968
Succeeded by
Marianne Mendt