Karel Gott (born July 14, 1939, in Plzeň) is a Czech Schlager singer, and an amateur painter. He is considered the most successful male singer in former Czechoslovakia and currently in the Czech Republic; he was elected the Most Favorite Male Singer in the annual national poll Český slavík (English: Czech Nightingale) a total of forty-one times, most recently in 2016. He also gained widespread fame in the German-speaking countries and is a fluent speaker of the language. Worldwide he has sold an estimated 50–100 million records with his songs, 23 million of them in the German-speaking market, and about 15 million in former Czechoslovakia and its successor states, the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Of his debut LP in Russia (Melodiya, 1977) there were sold over 5.5 million copies.
Gott was born in Pilsen, at that time Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, now Plzeň, Czech Republic), and has lived in Prague since age 6. His family was German Bohemian descent, but has assimilated into Czech national identity. He initially wanted to study art, but failed the exams at UMPRUM, the renowned School of Industrial Art, upon which he began training as an electrician. On completing his studies, he began working as an electrician, but was soon fascinated by the new types of music flooding the city, and became interested in jazz. He experimented with playing the bass and the guitar, but eventually decided to focus on singing, studying it privately. During the 1950s, he occasionally performed as an amateur singer and often participated in competitions.
In 1958, he participated in an amateur singing contest in the Prague Slavonic House, entitled "Looking for New Talent." He utterly failed to impress the judges, but soon made a name for himself in Prague jazz circles, finally getting his first engagement at the Vltava Prague Cafe that same year.
In 1960, he decided to undertake singing professionally. He studied opera at the Prague Conservatory under Konstantin Karenin, a student of the brilliant Russian bass Feodor Chaliapin. Knowing of Gott's interest in current musical trends, Karenin instructed him not only in classical Italian pieces, but also in the hits of the day. It was at this time that Gott traveled abroad (to Poland) for the first time with the Jazz Orchestra of the Czechoslovak Broadcast, conducted by Karel Krautgartner.
In 1962, Gott released his first single with Supraphon. Titled Až nám bude dvakrát tolik (When we are twice as old), it was a duet with the leading jazz singer, Vlasta Průchová. It was also at this time that Gott was voted into the Zlatý slavík (Golden Nightingale) viewer's survey, placing 49th and receiving a total of three votes. Shortly afterwards, in 1963, Gott left the conservatory to continue his studies privately until 1966.
In 1963 Gott was offered a place at the recently founded Prague Semafor theater, which was then at the forefront of the emerging Czechoslovakian pop music scene. This was his introduction to performance, where he learned how to communicate with an audience and move on a stage. In the same year, he released his first solo single, a Czech recording of Henry Mancini's Moon River, as well as his song Oči sněhem zaváté (Eyes Covered by Snow), which became the year's best-selling record. Shortly afterwards, Gott received the first of thirty-four (Golden Nightingale) awards, given to the most popular artist of the year.
Gott established the "Apollo Theater" in 1965, along with two brothers who were with him in Semafor: Jiří and Ladislav Štaidl. At this point, he was already a major star, appearing in the programs "Pilgrimage for Two" and "Evening Prayer" while building his own repertoire with his own orchestra. He began composing his own songs, and toured Czechoslovakia and abroad with the Apollo Theater. That year, he released his first album, Karel Gott Sings with Supraphon to great acclaim. Songs from his Supraphon archives are currently being released by Sony Music Bonton. This first album was followed by an English export album titled The Golden Voice of Prague (Artia-Supraphon).
In 1967, Gott performed at MIDEM, the International Fair of Record Companies and Music Producers in Cannes, France, where the applause was measured during every concert. He surprised everyone by achieving a level of 54 to Tom Jones' 58. Following this event, Gott signed a contract with the Polydor / Deutsche Grammophon Gesellschaft record company, renewing it several times until it became a life contract in 1997. Between 1967 and 2000, Polydor released over 125 albums and 72 singles for Karel Gott in German speaking countries in Europe. Gott represented Austria in the Eurovision Song Contest 1968 with the song Tausend Fenster, finishing in 13th place.
In the same year, Gott spent six months performing daily at the New Frontier Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, which experience made a great impression on him.
In the 70s, domestic success was marked by Gott's presence on television, including the filming of a ten-part serial entitled Karel Gott in Slany. One of his most best-known pop hits was the title music to the animated film series Biene Maja (English title: The Adventures of Maya the Bee). On May 3, 1977, he was awarded the title of Merited Artist, and in the following year received the Golden Hat of Cologne, given yearly to a personality in the cultural and social sphere. After the publication of Charter 77, a text aimed against the government of the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic, Gott took part in the anti-charter movement, in support of the government.
The 80s were marked by international success, including the filming of the musical In the Track of Bel Canto in Italy in 1981, with a corresponding German-Italian album and duet performance with Sofia Rotaru in the Soviet Union. In 1983, Gott was given the Gold Medal of Hermann Lönse in Munich, Germany, for the development of the German national song. On April 30, 1985, he was awarded the title of National Artist for his exceptional artistic contributions. In 1986, he received Polydor's Golden Needle, which up until then had only ever been given to Leonard Bernstein and Herbert von Karajan. The Supraphon Diamond Record Award was given him on September 8, 1992, for having sold 13 million recordings, a number which would account for 86% of Czechoslovakia's population.
In 1990, Gott decided to end his career and arranged a huge farewell tour. However, the tour was so successful that he re-evaluated his decision. In 1993, he established his own artistic agency, GOJA, with František Janeček. It is this agency that currently produces Gott's records and organizes his artistic activities.
In 1996, following renewed public interest in his career, Gott again won 'The Golden Nightingale Award' with a huge lead over his rivals, and has retained the accolade every year since . He remains popular in a number of countries, including those of the former Soviet Union, where his first record, produced by Melodiya in 1977, sold a staggering 4.5 million copies. He has performed widely outside The Czech Republic, in countries as varied as the United Arab Emirates, China, Cuba, and Japan.
During the 90s, Gott began to focus increasingly on painting, his second great love. The first exhibition of his paintings took place in 1992, at the Prague Christ Child Gallery. He has since exhibited his work successfully in Berlin, Moscow, Munich, Cologne, Vienna, and Bratislava.
Karel Gott recorded a cover version of the song All by Myself called Kam tenkrát šel můj bratr Jan (Where Did My Brother Jan Go This Time). The song was dedicated to Jan Palach who set himself on fire and burned to death as a protest against Soviet occupation of Czechoslovakia in January 1969. The song was recorded in 1977 while Soviet troops were still present in the country. In order to continue in his career, he had to sign in 1977 the so-called "Anti-charter", a petition organized by the Communist government against the Charter 77 signed by Václav Havel and other dissidents, protesting the government's violations of the Helsinki Accords. In 2008, he covered, together with Bushido, "Forever Young" from Alphaville, for Bushido's album Heavy Metal Payback. The song is called "Für immer jung".
His German lyricist since 2001 is Filip Albrecht who wrote over 20 songs for him. In May 2014 Gott released his autobiography Zwischen zwei Welten (Between two worlds), in which he recapitulates his career and private life.
He has two adult daughters (Dominika and Lucie) from former relationships (they have different mothers). He is also the father to Charlotte Ella with Ivana Macháčková whom he married in January 2008 in Las Vegas. She gave birth to a second daughter, Nelly Sofie, in summer 2008. In October 2015, he was diagnosed with a malignant cancer of the lymph nodes. On 18 March 2016 the media announced that Karel Gott finally won over cancer.