Eight years have passed since the death of singer Karel Kryl

Karel Kryl

On Saturday, a requiem mass was held in Prague's Brevnov monastery for Karel Kryl, a singer and poet who died eight years ago after spending many years in exile. One Czech newspaper recently described Karel Kryl as 'a singer who won the battle with the jammers' - meaning the Communist authorities who jammed broadcasts he made on Radio Free Europe in the 1970s and 80s.

When Karel Kryl was five years old, a group of communist thugs destroyed the printing works where his father and grandfather used to print books. Karel's father could only find job in a steelworks and as a child Karel was given the label of a child from a bourgeois family. He was lucky to even be accepted to a ceramics school in Bechyne, and it was where he composed his first song. Karel Kryl wanted to continue his studies at the Prague Academy of Applied Arts, but instead he was sent to a ceramic works in Teplice north of Prague, to make toilet bowls. However, he started composing songs and performing them in the local theatre. Later on, Kryl moved to Olomouc and then to Ostrava, north Moravia, where he managed to make his first recordings for Czechoslovak radio.

On August 21st, 1968 - the very day when Soviet tanks started to roll into Czechoslovakia, Karel Kryl composed his most famous song called 'Little Brother' on a train and succeeded in recording it for radio on the same day. It became a sort of national anthem for all who opposed the Soviet-led occupation. In spring 1969, an LP with fourteen of his songs was released, but the screws started to be turned. Organizers were canceling his concerts and studio sessions were canceled one by one as well. In autumn 1969 Kryl left for a music festival in Germany and did not come back.

He started working for Radio Free Europe in Munich as a sports editor and presenter of Sunday afternoon music programs. Thanks to them, he retained his popularity in Czechoslovakia, although he had left here only one LP. Kryl returned to Czechoslovakia in the revolutionary days of 1989. He was heavily involved in politics and considered himself a journalist, but it seemed that people did not need him any longer. His enemy had ceased to exist and Kryl's criticism could not find support from anybody. He fought many losing battles. Some said that although he had never betrayed his ideals, Karel Kryl became the first victim of the velvet revolution.

He died of a heart attack on March 3rd, 1994 - one month before his fiftieth birthday.