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Czech Crooner Karel Gott Dies Age 80

Legendary Czech performer Karel Gott has died, just weeks after he announced he was undergoing treatment for acute leukemia. He was 80 years old.

The singer, who rose to fame in the 1960s and sold more than 50 million albums worldwide, died shortly before midnight on October 1, according to his wife.

"With the deepest sadness in my heart I announce that shortly before midnight on Tuesday my beloved husband Karel Gott passed away after a long and serious illness," Ivana Gottova wrote on his website.

"He passed away at home, in quiet sleep, surrounded by his family."

Sometimes referred to as the “Sinatra of the East” and “the golden voice of Prague,” Gott's mellow tenor and slick smile 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.

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-garde 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.

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 were unable to dent his popularity and unseat him as the Czech king of pop music.

He won more than 40 Czech Nightingale awards as the country's best singer, alone since 1996.

But it was his 1968 hit song Lady Carneval that shot him to international fame and paved the way for shows in Las Vegas, Carnegie Hall in New York City, and other top music venues around the world.

In his later years, he also became known for his painting, holding exhibitions in Prague, Berlin, Moscow, Munich, Cologne, Vienna, and Bratislava.

He recently returned to the stage after being diagnosed with cancer three years ago.

"Extremely sad news for our whole country. Karel Gott was a real artist who gave himself to others," Czech President Milos Zeman said in a tweet put out by his spokesman, Jiri Ovcacek.

"Karel Gott gave his life to generations, he gave himself to us all."

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