The music of 1968

Marta Kubišová, photo: YouTube

What were some of the biggest hits and key songs of 1968, the year Czechoslovakia’s dreams of a freer society were crushed?

Marta Kubišová,  photo: YouTube

The political liberalisation of the second half of the 1960s naturally also left its mark on the arts in Czechoslovakia. Among the biggest pop stars of that era was Marta Kubišová, who won three awards in the Golden Nightingale public poll.

Other singers regularly topping the charts in those days included Karel Gott – who was a successful musical export to Germany, Las Vegas, Rio de Janeiro (where his Lady Carneval took gold in a song contest) and Moscow – and Waldemar Matuška.

Many of the pop songs recorded in Czechoslovakia in 1968 radiate joy. However, that joy was snuffed out by the occupation that began on August 21 when Soviet-led troops invaded the country.

Přejdi Jordán (Cross the Jordan), performed by Helena Vondráčková, was accused of encouraging emigration by the censors and placed “in the vaults”. A number of singers, such as protest legend Karel Kryl, left the country.

Marta Kubišová’s Modlitba pro Martu (A Prayer for Marta) – which was also banned – became a symbol of 1968. The heartrending ballad later became associated with the 1989 Velvet Revolution, when the singer was finally allowed to perform in public again as the communist regime was collapsing.