Prague’s golden nightingale
Avid bird watchers in the Czech Republic are keen to spot a white stork or saker falcon, but to track down the golden nightingale you will need to look in theatres and music halls or turn on the radio, as Intrepid’s Stefan Hellmuth explains…
“Pilsner beer, Bohemian dumplings and Prague citizen Karel Gott are arguably the most well-known exports of the Czech Republic, even though the enjoyment of all three is ultimately a question of taste. I am sure I don’t need to tell you much about beer and hopefully you get to sample the delicious dumplings yourself, but too little is known about the extraordinary singer Karel Gott.
Karel Gott, the golden voice from Prague, started his working life as an apprentice electrician after failing to pass the qualifying examinations for the Academy of Art, but he didn’t give up his passion for music.
In 1958 he failed to impress the judges of an amateur singing contest, but by the end of the year he had made a name for himself in Prague jazz circles and had his first professional engagement at the Vitala Prague Cafe.
In 1963 his first single was released, a Czech version of Henry Mancini’s ‘Moon River’, and in the same year he had his smash hit ‘Oci snehem zavate’ (Snowdrift Eyes). Shortly afterwards, Gott was voted the most popular artist of the year and received his first of 26 Golden Nightingale awards.
From that moment on his singing career went from strength to strength with performances around the world in 17 languages including French, Italian, Russian, Hebrew, Spanish, Polish, Hungarian, Croatian, English, Slovakian and Romani, which is the language of the Roma-Gypsies. He received the Golden Hat of Cologne in 1977, was given the Gold Medal of Hermann Lonse in Munich in 1983, awarded Polydor’s Golden Needle in 1986 and after a farewell tour that actually reignited his career, Karel Gott was once again awarded the Golden Nightingale Award in 1996.
Karel Gott is so popular amongst his Czech Republic fans that in 2003 they funded a campaign to have him run for president. But I think he has enough on his plate, with a successful career now as a painter on top of his continuing singing commitments, and 7 years ago, at the age of 66, he became a father again. Rumours are rife as to whether or not he’s actually the father of little Charlotte Ella and die-hard groupies are desperately hoping it’s not the truth, but either way it adds to the exciting Czech-ered past of Karel Gott and you can’t get much more Czech than eating dumplings, drinking good beer and washing it all down with Karel Gott on the stereo!”
Photo of musicians in Prague by Jaalin Cheng.