Oliver Dragojević, a Croatian singer and songwriter, who was considered one of the most enduring musical stars and cultural icons in Croatia, with a discography that spans nearly four decades, died in Split this morning after a long illness.
Oliver was born in Vela Luka, Korčula, Dubrovnik-Neretva County, but during his life and work became one of the most important artists in Croatia, blending in his music traditional klapa melodies of Dalmatia, a coastal region in his native Croatia, with jazz motifs wrapped up in a modern production.
He is one of the few Croatian musicians who has performed at Carnegie Hall (like his niece Ines Tričković), Royal Albert Hall, Olympia (Paris) and Sydney Opera House. Oliver, from his early years, showed a strong passion for music, and his parents decided to send him to a music school in Split. There he learned to play the piano, clarinet and bass guitar.
Dragojević’s first performance was at the ‘Split Children’s Festival’ in 1961 with the song ‘Baloni’ (Baloons).
In a competition of amateur singers, his cult band from Split, ‘Batali’ won first place for their rendition of Yesterday, a Beatles classic.
In 1972 to further develop his craft, he went abroad. He played in clubs across Germany, Sweden and Mexico. His solo singing career began in 1974 at the Split Festival, where he won with the song ‘Ča će mi Copacabana’.
A year later, composer Zdenko Runjić and Dragojević, released the song ‘Galeb i ja’. It proved to be a big hit across the former SFR Yugoslavia and made Dragojević a household name. This was followed by hits ‘Romanca’, ‘Oprosti mi, pape’, ‘Stari morski vuk’… And the iconic songs, such as ‘Nadalina’, ‘Piva klapa ispod volta’, ‘Ništa nova’…