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24 Jul 17

Yugoslavia Has Lost a Singing Legend

Petar Subotin

Predrag Cune Gojkovic may have gone but his beautiful voice will live in the memories of people throughout the region and beyond.

Predrag Cune Gojkovic. Photo: YouTube PrintScreen

The voice and appearance of Predrag Cune Gojkovic, who passed away on Friday, are something that generations of people in former Yugoslavia became very familiar with over the last six decades.

His unimaginably natural voice, its beautiful timbre, his unpretentiousness, fine manners, warmth and his genuine love for music all made him a true legend in the ex-Yugoslav lands – and in some other, ex-Soviet, countries, too.

Anyone, young or old, man or woman, would surely agree that listening to Gojkovic singing was a delicate pleasure owing to its gentleness and extraordinary ease.

He was born on November 6, 1932 in Kragujevac, Serbia. On that day, a football match was held between Ferencvárosi and Radnicki, where his father was one of the referees. At one point, a midwife ran onto the football pitch, yelling to his father that his son was born.

When he was three years old, his family moved to Belgrade. There, at elementary school, he took a role in a vaudeville play, “Prelo na selu”, playing a young girl in pigtails, wearing traditional costume.

The school had been unable to find a girl with the right voice, so Cune stepped in instead – and made his first appearance on the Kolarac stage in Belgrade.

In 1954, he left his job in a post office and decided to focus on music, singing in hotels for the next four years, after which he joined a musical trio who sang Mexican songs.

Soon after, he became famous for his interpretation of the song Halisko“ (Jalisco) with which he won second place at the well known international musical competition, “Sei giorni della canzone”, in Milan, Italy.

After that, he appeared at numerous music festivals, singing contemporary songs, while he also recorded “Prodavačica ljubičica“ (La Violetera) with Radio Belgrade’s jazz orchestra. It sold over 50,000 copies. 

A turning point in his career was another song, however, “Kafu mi draga ispeci“ (“Make me a coffee, dear”), a song still then unknown although previously recorded by five different singers.

He remained forever thankful to the Bosnian singer Nada Mamula who taught him that song – and who remains one of the best ex-Yugoslav sevdalinka singers.

The single sold over 100,000 copies, which brought to Gojkovic his first “gold record” which also happened to be the first such gold in Yugoslavia.

It was so popular that some people bought the song first and then the gramophone to hear it on afterwards. In an interview, Cune recalled that he had sung this song more than 40,000 times.

In 1966, he went to United States, where hoped to make a breakthrough. Although he did not succeed, it is known that such stars as Stevie Wonder and Sammy Davis Jr came to listen to him. 

After his return to Yugoslavia in 1969, he devoted his career to bringing to life old traditional songs and folksongs, which he did continuously over the next 40 years.

In 1971, he launched the singing competition “Ko zna više” (“Who knows more”), which remains one of the great highlights of his career.

A famous duel between Cune and Serbian singer Mile Bogdanovic, held in the Hotel Yugoslavia in Belgrade, lasted from 8pm to 1pm next day, over four rounds.

In the first round, one singer would start the song, the other one would have to finish it, and vice versa.

The second round was “Na slovo na slovo” (Letter to letter), where one singer had to start another song beginning with the letter on which the last one had ended.

In the third round, they had to sing about certain themes that were popular at the time (young women, young men, love, flowers, ships, etc.).

In the fourth round, each singer had to sing a whole song that the opponent would request.

(Three months prior to the contest, each singer gave the other 300 songs, which were held in the National Bank’s treasury until the day of the competition).

Both singers sang 273 songs without a break. Cune was the winner, however, gaining one point more than his opponent. For the next 30 years, both singers celebrated this famous duel, which promoted both beautiful music and friendship.

 His legacy includes over 1,000 recordings for Radio Belgrade, dozens of albums, and hundreds of concerts in all ex-Soviet republics and Yugoslavia, but also at the Olympia in Paris, the Konserthuset in Stockholm, the Lincoln Center in New York, the Opera House in Sidney, the Bucharest Philharmonic, and many other places.

He was also one of former President Tito’s most loved singers and sang to him on many occasions and awarded by him with the “Order of Merit”.

Knowing more than 4,000 traditional songs, Cune was a popular guest on music and entertainment shows, often appearing also on TV series and in movies. Some of the best loved songs he sang were “Ljubav mi srce mori”, “Ja bih hteo pesmom da ti kažem”, “Bele ruže nežne ruže”, “Ibar vodoand many others.

Predrag Cune Gojkovic will remain one of the most talented and best loved artists the Balkans has ever produced and will be much missed on many sides of the borders across the region.

Knowing that there is no kafana in the region that doesn’t include some of Cune’s songs in its repertoire, his extraordinary legacy will live on, forever.

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