Our friend Lilly Pavlak wrote from Switzerland to share news of the passing of Waldemar Matu?°ka, a popular Czech country and bluegrass artist. Living in the US at the time of his death, Matu?°ka was a musical hero in the Czech Republic.
Lilly wrote this report to help bluegrass fans worldwide recognize the contributions Matu?°ka made to Czech music.
Saturday May 30th the Country & Western music world lost one of its most famous Czech sons. The singer and actor, Waldemar Matu?°ka, died in his Florida home in St. Petersburg Florida of pneumonia and heart failure, aged 76.
Matu?°ka, a charismatic personality called by the whole loving nation as our “Walda,” was one of the most memorable voices of 20th century. His career lasted over four decades. He recorded about 30 albums and starred in more than 20 movies, including award winning 1968 film All My Countrymen by Vojtech Jasny.
He was opposite of his show-business friend Karel Gott. As a rebel, hothead, tramp‚Ä¶
His beautiful baritone and black full beard earned him enormous popularity. He played several instruments, though most people remember him as a banjo man. He had his first hit in 1960 and two years later he won the first Golden Nightingale ever for the best Czechoslovak singer. The second time for him was again in 1967.
He toured the world, Paris, London, Nashville ‚Äì where he performed several times with his band K.T.O. in the late seventies. Bill Monroe told me once, he likes him very much, even as he said, it is more Czech grass, as real bluegrass.
In 1986 he decided to leave the communist Czechoslovakia and settled with his family in St. Petersburg, Florida. He was already ill with severe asthma and the climate there was much better for him than in Prague.
After a fall of Czechoslovak communist regime in 1989 he visited frequently his old homeland. His last public appearance there took place in 2007. I saw him for the last time at the Jamboree Festival Strakonice in 2004.
This year at the same festival we first learned about his passing. We held a moment of silence and his friends sang his song for him.
His last wish was that he be laid to rest in Czech Republic. The last farewell ceremony is to be held in Prague, June 21st
You will live forever in your music in our hearts, dear Walda!!!
B?ºlach, Switzerland – June 8th, 2009
Here’s a video of Walda from 1982.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jXIpb-Pic4c