Čolić in 2007
Zdravko Čolić (Serbian Cyrillic : Здравко Чолић, pronounced [zdrǎːv̞kɔ̝ t͡ʃɔ̝̌ːlit͡ɕ] ; born 30 May 1951) is a pop singer from Bosnia and Herzegovina, [a] widely considered as one of the greatest vocalists and cultural icons of former Yugoslavia. Dubbed the 'Tom Jones' of the Balkans [ page needed ] he has garnered notoriety in Southeastern Europe for his emotionally expressive tenor voice, fluent stage presence and numerous critically and commercially acclaimed albums and singles.
Among his songs, "Ti si mi u krvi" (from same-named album) is widely considered one of the most popular ballads of ex-Yugoslav music.
Born in Sarajevo, PR Bosnia and Herzegovina, FPR Yugoslavia to Herzegovinian Serb parents, police administrator Vladimir from the Vlahovići village near Ljubinje and homemaker Stana Čolić from Trebinje,young Čolić showed an early interest in sports. He was active as a football goalkeeper in FK Željezničar's youth system, before switching to track and field, where he also excelled. At one point he ran a 100 meter dash in 11.3 seconds, and continually placed high at various events he entered (at one of them he finished just behind future star Nenad Stekić). Čolić gave up on his sports career, feeling he lacked the discipline required to compete on a regular basis.
Čolić attended Vladimir Perić Valter elementary school in the Grbavica neighbourhood where he grew up. He also attended music school where he studied guitar playing. As a hobby, he took part in various school recitals, and also acted in a couple of plays at the Pionirsko pozorište (youth theatre).
Since the youngest age Čolić showed an interest in music. With friend Braco Isović, he played guitar at informal and impromptu park gatherings through which they became somewhat locally known as "Čola i Isa sa Grbavice". At the time Čolić was trying to emulate pop schlager music that dominated Yugoslav and Italian festivals. His first love was Milena Mijatović from Belgrade.
His first significant public singing experience occurred in 1967, when he spent some time at the Montenegrin coast for the Republic Day. Staying in the house his father owned in the coastal community of Baošići, 17-year-old Čolić was persuaded by a friend, Nedim Idrizović, to enter the amateur signing competition in nearby Bijela. He won second prize singing "Lady Madonna" by The Beatles.
Encouraged by this unexpected success, and soon after returning to Sarajevo, Čolić entered his first band—a group called Mladi i lijepi. This engagement didn't last, however, because around the time he graduated high school in 1969; he moved to the more established Ambasadori, a band whose two incarnations he would end up staying with for the next two and a half years.
At the time of Čolić's arrival, Ambasadori employed a strange setup: they were essentially a military cover band as all the musicians, except for bandleader Slobodan Vujović, were army recruits. Their repertoire centred around 1960s rhythm & blues (Chicago, Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett, etc.) along with obligatory Yugoslav hits of the day and years past, and finally even a few original numbers written by the bandmembers thrown into the mix. Over time, the group started getting more gig offers, which presented a problem since its army part was not available for many of them and those offers had to be declined.
Seeing their opportunities limited by the strange situation, Vujović and Čolić decided to step out and form Novi ambasadori in 1970, bringing in drummer Perica Stojanović, organist Vlado Pravdić, saxophonist Lale Stefanović, and bassist Zlatko Hold. With the almost all new lineup, the band also expanded its repertoire so that in addition to R&B they now also played covers of Led Zeppelin, Blood, Sweat & Tears, Creedence Clearwater Revival, etc. In the summer of 1970, Novi ambasadori scored a month-long gig with Indexi in Dubrovnik, which was their first tour-like experience. Next step was competing at the 1971 Vaš šlager sezone annual festival in Sarajevo where they finished in 7th place with a song "Plačem za tvojim usnama" that songwriter Zdenko Runjić claimed to have composed and officially signed his name under, despite the fact that it was a blatant rip-off of The Tremeloes' "Suddenly You Love Me" (which actually is a cover of Riccardo Del Turco's "Uno tranquillo" ). No one from the festival noticed this plagiarism and the band avoided the controversy. The song was even released on a 7-inch single "Plačem za tvojim usnama" / "Zapjevaj" by Beograd Disk and sold surprisingly well. The performance at Vaš šlager sezone was also significant since it marked the band's first television appearance, exposing them to a much larger audience. One of the people in that TV audience was Kornelije Kovač, an already influential and established figure in Yugoslav music circles, who immediately was intrigued by Čolić's "clean tenor and good stage presence".
Čolić was soon offered a "bench role" with Indexi, to fill in for their singer Davorin Popović, and even performed with them a couple of times.
In the meantime, during summer of 1971, Čolić finally met face to face with Kornelije Kovač who came to see Čolić play in Mostar and invited him to join his Korni grupa as replacement to their departed singer Dado Topić. Unlike Amabasadori, Korni grupa performed their own material and generally had a much more studious and serious approach to music, so Čolić immediately jumped at the opportunity.
On 10 September 1971, twenty-year-old Čolić left his hometown and moved to the capital Belgrade in order to join his new band. However, his stint with Korni grupa ultimately proved to be very short and largely unsuccessful as he never meshed well enough with the rest of the group musically, finding it hard to fit into their progressive rock style. He recorded three tracks with them, "Kukavica, "Gospa Mica gazdarica", and "Pogledaj u nebo", all of which were released on the 7-inch single by PGP RTB. Track "Gospa Mica gazdarica" managed to create minor controversy due to the slightly risque lyrics written from the perspective of a young man imploring his older female landlord to allow him into her bed—a nod to Čolić's life at the time since he was living away from home in sublet apartments. Due to numerous complaints, the song was taken off radio playlists.
Soon, however, Čolić and Kovač agreed that it would be better for Čolić to go solo. Only six months upon his arrival to Belgrade, he returned to Sarajevo determined to give solo career a try.
On 15 April 1972 Čolić's first solo move was taking part in the Vaš šlager sezone competitive festival in Sarajevo. He won the third audience prize as well as the interpretation award with Kemal Monteno written song "Sinoć nisi bila tu" that was originally meant to be sung by Josipa Lisac who opted out at the last moment.
Right away, under Kovač's guidance Čolić managed to establish a fair amount of prominence as a solo act—and on 20 May 1972 the two appeared as guests on the very popular TV Belgrade variety show Obraz uz obraz hosted by Milena Dravić and Dragan Nikolić. The same year, Čolić made further appearances at the Split festival (with song "Stara pjesma"), Priština festival, and Skopje Festival (with song "Moj bol"), before embarking on a tour of Soviet Union together with Indexi, Bisera Veletanlić, Sabahudin Kurt, and Sabina Varešanović.
Then came the first big break that launched him on the road to stardom. By winning at the Opatija festival with song "Gori vatra" written by Kemal Monteno, Čolić got to represent SFR Yugoslavia at the 1973 Eurovision Song Contest on 7 April 1973 in Luxembourg. The song placed poorly, but became a well-respected hit at home.
Riding the wave of exposure the Eurovision appearance afforded him, Čolić continued entering competitive festivals throughout SFR Yugoslavia over the next two years with plenty of success. At Hit parada festival in Belgrade on 23 November 1974, he won with the song "Ona spava", composed and written by Kornelije Kovač. Next year, 1975, Čolić bagged a few more festival wins with Kovač's songs—Beogradsko proleće with "April u Beogradu", and Vaš šlager sezone with "Zvao sam je Emili". Other songs he performed at various festivals in those years were "Bling blinge blinge bling" (1973 Vaš šlager sezone, composed by Zdenko Runjić), "Ljubav je samo riječ" (1974 Beogradsko proleće, composed by Vojkan Borisavljević), and "Zelena si rijeka bila" (1974 Vaš šlager sezone, composed by Kemal Monteno).
Around the same time he also signed a deal with the German arm of WEA record label and did two singles for that market. German producers were of the opinion that his name was too difficult to pronounce for their consumers so they marketed him as Dravco. Soon, however, Čolić decided not to pursue his options in that country further mostly because he was unwilling to move to Germany.
His first solo album was Ti i ja (You and I), released in 1975 by Jugoton. Closely overseen by Kornelije Kovač, the album brought Čolić more hits like "Vagabund", "Igraš se vatrom", and "Loše vino" (written by Arsen Dedić and Goran Bregović). Cover sleeve was done by Dragan S. Stefanović, another collaborator who would remain with Čolić for years to come. Čolić's image especially appealed to girls and women, something that would remain a staple of his entire career. The same year, cashing in on his sudden popularity upswing, PGP RTB released a compilation of his festival singles under the name Zdravko Čolić.
Despite, achieving great prominence already, Čolić continued appearing at the occasional festival such as the Zagreb one in 1976 where he surprisingly finished in fourth place singing "Ti si bila, uvijek bila". At the end of that year he went on a Yugoslavia-wide tour with Indexi. After the Belgrade concert, the measure of his sudden fame was on public display during autograph-signing at the Jugoton store as the cordon of girls rushed the store, breaking a window glass in attempt to get closer to him.
The next year, 1977, he did the festival circuit for the last time, first in Zagreb with "Živiš u oblacima", followed by an appearance at the Festival of Patriotic Songs also in Zagreb, where he performed Druže Tito mi ti se kunemo. That song was soon released on a 7-inch single record and sold 300,000 copies.
His second album, Ako priđeš bliže (If You Come Closer), released later that year, was even more successful, creating mass hysteria among girls for his music. The copies were extremely sought-after, as 50,000 sold in the first two weeks alone. The album contained some of his best known and liked songs such as "Glavo luda", "Zagrli me", "Juče još", "Pjevam danju, pjevam noću", "Jedna zima sa Kristinom", and "Produži dalje".
On 1 April 1978, he started an ambitious tour of SFR Yugoslavia with Lokice dance group in support of the album that had already sold 150,000 copies. Čolić also started to play the guitar occasionally on stage. Putujući zemljotres (Traveling Earthquake Tour) produced and organized by Maksa Ćatović moved all over the country, soon becoming a phenomenon the likes of which the country had not seen before. The scenes of screaming girls rushing the stage were repeated in a city after a city. The tour's climax took place in Belgrade at Red Star FC stadium on 5 September 1978 with 70,000 people in attendance despite the fact that Čolić already played two sold-out shows in Belgrade a few months earlier on 4 and 8 April at Hala Pionir. Supporting Čolić on stage that night were Chris Nicholls on keyboards and Dado Topić on bass guitar, with old favourites Kornelije Kovač, Arsen Dedić, Kemal Monteno, Josip Boček, Trio Strune, and RTV Belgrade singing quintet appearing as guests. Čolić and the great tour essentially became a cultural phenomenon transcending musical boundaries such that in the lead-up to the big Belgrade concert journalist Dušan Savković and film director Jovan Ristić decided to make a movie about Čolić. Savković wrote a rudimentary screenplay, but the movie ended up being a 90-minute feature documentary titled Pjevam danju, pjevam noću that follows Čolić from Belgrade concert onwards and looks back on his career up to that point. Two days after the Belgrade concert, Čolić was in his hometown Sarajevo at Koševo Stadium for the tour's grand finale; however, the rain interrupted much of the concert. By the end of its promotion cycle, the album sold more than 700,000 copies and with later re-releases during the 1990s went over the million mark.
Čolić also got the attention of Ziggy Loch, director of German WEA, who immediately after watching the Belgrade concert wanted to renew his contract. Singles with songs "Jedina" and "Zagrli me" were released for the German market as well as the disco single "I'm Not a Robot Man" / "Light Me". However, Čolić refused to move to Germany for the second time, and instead on 14 November 1978 went to serve his mandatory Yugoslav Army stint. Twenty seven years of age at the time, Čolić was assigned to a unit in Valjevo, before getting transferred to Belgrade, and finally Požarevac. After serving 10 months, he got out of the military service on 14 September 1979.
Upon his return from the army, Čolić started work on his third album—that came out in the spring of 1980, entitled Zbog tebe ; it brought more hits as Čola further secured his position of the most popular pop performer in Yugoslavia.
In 1984, Čolić moved from his hometown Sarajevo to Ljubljana where he started a private business with Goran Bregović through their Kamarad label. He then lived in Zagreb for five years. 1988 saw his hit "Jastreb". In 1989, he moved back to Belgrade.
After his 1990 album "Da ti kažem šta mi je", he didn't make another album until late 1997,when he embarked on a comeback with Komuna label album Kad bi moja bila, and regained much of his popularity. The following year, Čolić had nine sold-out concerts at Sava Centar.
In October 2005, he performed two concerts at the Belgrade Arena.
In 2010, he had a big concert on the Asim Ferhatović Hase Stadium in Sarajevo, within his Kad pogledaš me preko ramena tour, in front of over 60,000 people. On 25 June 2011, he had the biggest concert of his career: on Ušće, in Belgrade, with over 100,000 visitors. His biggest concert to date, it celebrated his 40-year career milestone.
At the outbreak of Bosnian War, Čolić moved to Belgrade, and has lived there ever since. Čolić holds a degree in economics from the University of Sarajevo. He is married to wife Aleksandra Aleksić, and has two daughters.
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Ja sam Sarajlija i Bosanac gdje god bio i to će tako biti cijeli život.
Na neki način ja sam ostao stanovnik bivše države, ali do dana današnjeg se nisam prestao osjećati Sarajlijom ...
Meanwhile, big Serbian (or former Bosnian) stars like Ceca, Zdravko Colic,
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