Prague (dpa) - Karel Gott, one of the biggest stars of the hit world, is dead. The "golden voice from Prague" died on Tuesday evening shortly before midnight at the age of 80 years. The Czech news agency CTK reported on Wednesday, citing its spokeswoman.
In September 2019, the singer had made public that he suffered from acute leukemia. A first cancer on the lymphatic system, he had survived a few years earlier. Karel Gott has been on stage for almost six decades and has sold more than 50 million records, according to estimates.
Karel Gott's voice for generations of German-speaking children became known with the theme tune for the animated series "Bee Maja". With memorable tunes such as "Once Around the World", "Lady Carnival" and "Catch the Light", the Czech also secured an audience of millions among the adults. The classically trained tenor earned the name of a "Sinatra of the East".
In his native Czech Republic, the singer was a legend. A total of 42 times he won the audience award Golden Nightingale. Karel Gott was born on 14 July 1939 in Pilsen, West Bohemia. As an electric apprentice at 18, he had his first appearances in Prague dance cafés. With his performance of "Thousand Windows" at the Grand Prix Eurovision de la Chanson in London in 1968, he was also known in the West.
The hits followed in quick succession: "Lady Carneval" (1969), "Once Around the World" (1970), "Babicka" (1979) and "Catch the Light" (1985). With the Bee Maja tune of 1977, Karel Gott captured the hearts of the small television audience. With his unmistakable Slavic accent, he sang of the "little cheeky sly bee" with the saucer eyes. As a single landed the title song of the ZDF cartoon series in May 1977 at number one in the NDR hit parade.
In 2003, Karel Gott survived a minor stroke. His last major tour through the Czech Republic and Slovakia was a triumph. Around 12,000 spectators celebrated their "mistr" (masters) in Prague in December 2014. He celebrated his 80th birthday in July 2019, shielded from the public, with companions and celebrities in a Prague theater. About his relationship with his audience, he once said, "It's a kind of magnetism, a mutual magnetism that's hard to describe."
The crush had married in Las Vegas in 2008, his 37 years younger girlfriend, the television presenter Ivana Machackova. With her, he got two daughters, Charlotte Ella and Nelly Sofie. He also leaves two adult daughters from previous relationships.