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Lavish Concert Marks 70th Birthday Of Karel Gott, 'Sinatra Of The East'

One of Karel Gott's most recent hits was the song, "I’ve Been Buried A Hundred Times.”
He’s been called the “Sinatra of the East” and “the golden voice of Prague.”

His mellow tenor and slick smile have earned him dozens of awards, invitations from the world’s most prestigious venues, and a legion of fans across Eastern Europe, the former Soviet Union, and Germany.

On June 11, the Czech Republic consecrates the 50-year singing career of its pop-music icon, Karel Gott, with a lavish gala concert that has been advertised as the “musical event of the century.”

The extravaganza -- the Czech press puts its production cost at some $840,000 -- marks Gott’s 70th birthday, although the singer’s actual birthday is in July.

An electrician by training, Gott started out as a singer in the 1950s with occasional gigs in clubs and cafes. After studying opera at the Prague conservatory, he was hired in 1963 at Prague’s avant-gardist Semafor theater, which did much to launch his pop music career. The same year, he received the Golden Nightingale, which rewarded Czechoslovakia’s most popular artist of the year. His song “Eyes Covered by Snow” topped records sales in 1963.

He has since been awarded an astounding 34 Nightingale awards, renamed the Czech Nightingale after the end of Communist rule.

Gott shot to international fame in 1968 with his song “Lady Carneval,” which won a prize at a musical contest in Rio de Janeiro.

More than three decades later, he continues to sing to full houses around the world. But his biggest fan base is in the former communist world.

Bahodur Nematov, a popular Tajik singer, says one of his biggest regrets is never to have met and sung with Gott.

“I myself never met him. As a singer he was enormously popular in Soviet republics," Nematov says. "In the 1970s and 1980s, people in Tajikistan loved him. His voice was high and pleasant. He was great tenor.”

For now, no singer has been able to unseat Gott as the Czech king of pop-music.

Even his signing of the “Anti-Charter” -- a petition initiated by the Communist government to counter the dissidents’ Charter 77 -- and the travel privileges he enjoyed under communist rule have been unable to dent his popularity.

And Gott says he’s in no rush to retire.

Recently branded a “zombie” by a daring music critic, Gott fired back with a song that soon became yet another hit: “I’ve been Buried A Hundred Times.”

“I’ve been buried a hundred times and I’ve risen a hundred times,” Gott sings. “And if there’s something left to sing, I’ll keep rising again.”

RFE/RL's Tajik Service contributed to this report.