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Biography

KAREL GOTT – SINGER OF THE CENTURY, GOLDEN VOICE FROM PRAGUE, SINATRA OF THE EAST
Perserverance, exceptionally hard work, diligence and boundless energy, reliability and responsibility, great enthusiasm, inquisitiveness in relation to everything new and especially an understanding relationship with people has made Karel Gott : KAREL GOTT. Despite the changes in fashion and musical trends, Karel Gott has remained himself. Perhaps that is why he has sustained that ability which cannot be purchased anywhere : his ability to charm. He continues to remain the most distinguished vocal artist in the history of Czech popular music and, thanks to his success and strong popularity, he has also become an artist of European class, one who is far from having had his last word. Karel Gott has become the singer of century in the countries of Central and Eastern Europe.

He was born on July 14th, 1939 in Pilsen, western Bohemia. His home has become Prague, where he has lived since he was six years old. He wanted to become a painter and although he conscientiously prepared for exams at the Secondary School of Art and Industry, UMPRUM, he failed. He did not know then that his paintings would be exhibited during the 1990's at independent exhibitions in such European cities as Prague, Berlin, Koln am Rhein, Moscow, Vienna and Bratislava, where his singing had been applauded so often in previous years. He began to study to become an electrician and after completing his studies he began to work in an electric rotating machine test room. But that was at a time when the world was saturated with music that was completely different from that which people had become accustomed to. Karel Gott was also completely taken with jazz; he tried to play the guitar and the bass and, after some time, singing came along and Karel began to study in private. In 1958 he took part in a competition entitled "Looking for New Talent", which took place in the Prague Slavonic House; however he was viewed there as a complete failure by the expert committee. He was different right from the start. He remained himself, and without knowing it he was already representing a music style which would once and for all change the image of Czech popular music. It did not take long before Karel Gott was known to Prague Jazz Cafe musicians as an excited listener and fan. The Prague jazz world began to hear about a new young talent, and soon afterwards Karel Gott appeared on the new program of the Vltava Prague Cafe. In 1960 he became a student at the Prague Conservatory under the leadership of Saljapin's pupil, another tenor and a brilliant and incredibly patient teacher by the name of Konstantin Karenin. He knew very well that Karel had a weakness for jazz and modern popular music, and he worked with him diligently not only on classical Italian singing techniques which he knew he would always need but also on the hits of the day. Studies at the Conservatory, co-operation with then-leading orchestras, and the first tours abroad in Poland and in countries of the former Soviet Union gave the singer his foundations. Without those foundations he would probably never have become the person he is today.

Learning, which is commonly referred to as the "school of experience", soon followed. In 1963 Karel Gott became a member of the Prague Semafor Theatre, where he learned to work with an audience and how to make contact with them, to accommodate himself to the given moment and how to make use of it, and how to move on the stage. Karel Gott then received the first of his twenty-five Czech Golden Nightingale Awards, given to the most popular Czech artist of the year; and he also became acquainted with Jiri and Ladislav Staidl in the Semafor Theatre, brothers with whom he established the Apollo Theatre in 1965. Gott was already a major star of the "Pilgrimage for Two" and the "Evening Prayer" programmes, and he built his own repertoire as well with an accompanying orchestra. He began composing by himself, and astonished listeners and critics with the versatility of his renderings and the extent of his repertoire. He toured in Czechoslovakia as well as in countries abroad with Apollo, and released his first album called "Karel Gott Sings" produced by Supraphon. "I would like everyone in Europe, or even better in the whole world, to know that there once lived a Czech who sang well and his name was Karel Gott,", he said in an interview at the beginning of his career. It was not long before his singing artistry penetrated abroad, and where the traditional characteristics of Prague, being the ‘city of gold’, was soon enriched by the legend of the golden voice from Prague and was hailed as the ‘Sinatra of the East’. In 1967, Karel Gott became the sensation of the International Fair of Record Companies and Music Producers, MIDEM, in Cannes, France, where the volume of applause was measured at all of the festival’s concerts. While the applause given to Tom Jones reached a level of 58, Karel Gott - the newcomer - surprised everyone with a level of 54. During the following days, the French press wrote not about a promising new singer but about a natural phenomenon. He signed a recording contract with the Polydor/Deutsche Grammophon Gesellschaft record company/, and had it renewed a number of times until it was made into a Contract for Life in 1997. During the period from 1967 to 2000, Polydor produced, in German-speaking countries in Europe, over 125 albums (albums as well as samplers of his greatest hits) and 72 singles. A very strong impulse for further artistic development came from Karel Gott's six month stay in the ‘Mecca of International Show Business’ – Las Vegas – in 1967. He performed daily before different audiences at the Frontier Hotel there, and he compared his observations and experience with the programmes of the world's greatest celebrities of the genre: Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis, Jr., Ray Charles, Bobby Darin, Frankie Laine, Sonny & Cher, The Supremes, Duke Ellington. He acquired new stimuli and inspiration. He returned to Europe as a complete, mature artist who had once and for all decided to follow the career of an independent performer.

During the course of the years following his discovery, Karel Gott became a national phenomenon not only winning many listener and expert competitions but also in the sales of his records and in sold-out performances at the greatest concert halls. He was awarded the National Artist Award in 1985 and was also awarded the Supraphon Diamond Record Award for 13 million sold sound tracks with his recordings in 1992. This number represented 86% of the population of the then-Czechoslovakia. Michael Jackson would have to sell 215 million records in the United States in the course of his career in order to reach the same level of popularity in one country as Karel Gott did. This is a reality which deserves to be recorded in the Guinness Book of Records. He recorded 182 singles, 63 albums and 2 independent videocassettes for Supraphon during 1962-1993. Songs from Gott's Supraphon archives are currently being released by Sony Music Bonton. In 1993 he established, together with Frantisek Janecek, his own artistic agency called GOJA, which produces his new records and is engaged in organising, amongst other things, Gott's artistic activities. Karel Gott has been accepted by the public as their very own artist in the former Soviet Union (where his first record produced in 1977 by Melodija sold an unbelievable 4.5 million copies), as well as in Poland and Bulgaria and in all German-speaking European countries. Viewers and listeners in many countries of the world have become acquainted with Gott's ‘forever- young’ art through thousands of concerts during more than seventy independent concert tours, hundreds of television programmes, dozens of independent television shows, and millions of sold records, the exact number of which can hardly be determined. He has also presented his music in Japan, USA(New Jersey, Atlantic City, New York-Carnegie Hall and in Nashville at the Country Music Festival Fan Fair where he performed five times - twice before the local public while accompanied by Elvis Presley's chorus, the Jordanaires), and in Cuba, China, Spain, Holland, Luxembourg, Greece, Belgium, Italy, France, Great Britain, Venezuela and the United Arab Emirates.

If we were to search for the reasons for Gott's long term popularity, we would find that they lie primarily in the fact that Karel Gott was the first Czech singer capable of combining vocal skills and personal attractiveness-along with the absolutely-necessary ‘tear in his voice’-, singing professionalism (accompanied by all those attributes ranging from pronunciation to voice range and to his dynamic and rich tones), and characteristic pop-music expressions and style. He has proven this versatility - which is rare to see in the world - in his diverse, sometimes even contrasting, repertoire ranging from the folk music of practically all European nations through specially selected operas, operatic arias, classical compositions, and Italian canzonettes, to jazz, musicals, rock 'n' roll, country and western, and disco. It is this versatility that every record company in the world perceives as the value of Karel Gott's artistry. His first concert in Carnegie Hall, New York at September 29th, 2000, definitely confirmed his vocal mastery and extensive talents.

Jan Adam

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