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  • Born

    7 December 1947

  • Born In

    Split, Splitsko-dalmatinska županija, Croatia

  • Died

    29 July 2018 (aged 70)

Oliver Dragojević (Split, Croatia, 7 December 1947 - 29 July 2018) was a Croatian singer and songwriter. One of the most enduring musical stars and cultural icons in Croatia, with a discography that spans nearly four decades. His style blends traditional klapa (a cappella) 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, Royal Albert Hall, Olympia (Paris) and Sydney Opera House.

Dragojević's parents had three daughters, all of whom died young during the Second World War. His family escaped to a refugee camp in El Shatt, Egypt, together with many other women and children from Dalmatia. Oliver was born on December 7, 1947, not long after his family returned to their ancestral town of Vela Luka on the Dalmatian island of Korčula. His brother, Aljoša, was born in 1949. When Oliver was five, his father Marko bought each of his sons a harmonica. Oliver mastered the instrument quickly, and entertained other kids on his street, as well as passengers on board of ships on the busy route Vela Luka - Split. As Oliver showed a strong passion for music, his parents decided to enroll him in a music school in Split. There he learned to play the piano, clarinet and bass guitar.

"I attended school in Split, but I always loved being at home, and I spent all my free time in Vela Luka. In winter we would harvest olives, and would warm up with wood-burning stoves, though the room always stayed cold. The house was old and dingy, but my mom, dad, brother, cousins, and aunts were there - the house was always full," he recalled.

On 29 July 2018, Oliver Dragojević died after succumbing to a year long battle with lung cancer in Split.

Dragojević's first performance was at the "Split Children's Festival" in 1961 with the song "Baloni". 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". Runjić would further collaborate with Dragojević on further 200 songs, until Runjić's death. Between 1975-80, the Dragojević/Runjić team dominated the music scene of the former SFR Yugoslavia. Part of the secret of their success was a third contributor, Jakša Fiamengo (hr), who wrote the lyrics to some of Dragojević's most iconic songs: "Nadalina", "Piva klapa ispod volta", "Karoca", "Ništa nova", "Infiša san u te", and "Ostavljam te samu".

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