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Remembering a Croatian music great: Anniversary of the death of Oliver Dragojevic

Oliver Dragojevic

29 July 2020 – Exactly two years ago today, one of the true Croatian music greats, Oliver Dragojević, passed away in Split at the age of 70. 

Dragojević lost his one-year battle with lung cancer and passed away in hospital in Split at 5 a.m. on Sunday, 29 July 2018. 

Dragojević enjoyed a career spanning four decades and was considered one of the most iconic musical stars in Croatia and in the Croatian diaspora around the world. He was one of the few to perform at Carnegie Hall (New York), Royal Albert Hall (London), Olympia (Paris) and the Sydney Opera House. 

His solo career really 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” which became a huge hit and made him a household name. 

He followed it up with a number of other huge hits over the years such as “Cesarica”, “Oprosti Mi, Pape”, “Skalinada”, “Zuto Lisce Ljubavi”, “Nadalina”, and”Piva klapa ispod volta”. His iconic songs are still enjoyed decades later. 

Oliver, who left behind wife Vesna and sons Dino, Damir and Davor, was farewelled publicly over two days in Croatia. On 31 July in Split, Oliver was given a huge send-off. The Croatian government declared for the first time in the nation’s history that the day would be a National Day of Condolence and flags all around the country flew at half-mast.

Scenes in Split as Oliver is farewelled

The city, where Oliver spent most of his life living, farewelled the singer with a special commemoration in the morning at the Croatian National Theatre. As well as his family and close friends, the commemoration was attended by President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović and Prime Minister Andrej Plenković. 

A big crowd turned out in Split

A large crowd gathered and just before 7 p.m., Oliver’s casket left Sv. Frane Church and made its way along the Split Riva. A number of Oliver’s famous hits were sung as he was carried by close friends, including Petar Gršso, Doris Dragović, Goran Karan, Tonci Huljić and 2CELLOS star Stjepan Hauser.

Oliver then departed on a catamaran and headed off in the sunset towards Vela Luka on the island of Korcula as a fleet of small boats followed in its trail. 

Oliver departing one last time to Vela Luka from Split

The following day, Oliver was buried in his home town of Vela Luka. There were large queues as people lined up to write in the book of condolences, whilst hundreds of candles were placed in front of Oliver’s house throughout the day. 

A free catamaran from Split to Vela Luka was put on so people could travel to the funeral to pay their respects. Oliver’s songs could be heard as passengers on the full catamaran sang all the way to Vela Luka. 2CELLOS Stjepan Hauser played a tribute in Vela Luka earlier in the day and also played Oliver’s hit ‘Galeb I ja’ at the funeral. Oliver was buried at the Sveti Roko cemetery in Vela Luka.

At the graveyard in Vela Luka as Oliver is buried

Special concerts and events are being held in Vela Luka until 31 July. A big concert is being held in front of the church of St. Josip on July 29 called “Trag u beskraju“. Nina Badrić, Petar Grašo, Petar Dragojević and Oliver’s band Delfini will perform at the concert, along with many musicians, a string orchestra, and conductor Alan Bjelinski, all under the direction of producer Ante Gela.

On Thursday, July 30, there will be a concert called “Evo mene među moje” where the young forces of the Croatian music scene will sing songs from which Oliver made evergreens of Croatian music with his performances. The concert will feature Mia Dimšić, Vinko Ćemeraš, Albina Grčić, Marko Kutlić, Matija Cvek, Uršula Najev, Dino Jelusić, Iva Ajduković, Antonela Đinđić, Jure Brkljača, Sabrina Hebiri, Petra Oreč, Dino Perić, Alen Đuras, Josip Palameta, and Petra Roško.

The concerts “Trag u beskraju” on 29 July and “Evo mene među moje” on 30 July will also be broadcast live on Max TV, the Youtube channel and Facebook page of Croatian Telecom, as well as on Narodni radio. 

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