Pop singer Helena Vondráčková still going strong
Helena Vondráčková, one of the Czech Republic’s biggest pop stars, will turn 75 next week. She can look back on a career spanning five decades and boast of being the country’s best-selling singer with over a million albums under her belt.
Vondráčková first stood in the spotlight in 1964 when at the age of 17 she won a national talent contest with a Czech rendition of Red River Valley. In 1965 she was voted the most popular singer in Czechoslovakia, winning the Golden Nightingale Award and in the years to follow, she went on to win another 27 silver and bronze Nightingales.
Her career took off in the Rokoko Theatre where together with Marta Kubišová and Václav Neckář she formed the Golden Kids trio that gained overnight popularity, recording two albums and performing live in Czechoslovakia and Germany. It was forced to disband in 1970 after Kubišová was banned from performing due to her outspoken opposition to the communist regime in Czechoslovakia.
In the 80s and 90s Vondráčková enjoyed the privilege of travelling the world over, touring the US Canada and Western Europe, recording albums, performing at festivals, appearing in musicals and getting title roles in a number of films.
Paradoxically, the 1989 Velvet Revolution which opened borders and possibilities for millions of Czechs, inevitably led to Vondráčková’s fall from grace, along with other top artists who toed the line during communism.
However, a few years later, the singer was back as fans re-embraced her on a wave of nostalgia. Soon she was recording new albums and selling out concerts.
In November 1994 the Golden Kids reunited for a one-off concert at the Lucerna Palace in 2000 she recorded Vodopád a fifteen track album of Czech original dance tracks which, spearheaded by the single "Dlouhá noc", reached Platinum status selling 35,000 copies.
In 2005, she made headlines with a 4-CD set The Golden Collection (Universal Music), and published her first book of memoirs. In 2005 Vondráčková gave a concert in Prague celebrating forty years on stage. She appearing in the Slovak and Polish versions of reality show Dancing With the Stars, and her “Best of” album placed in the top ten in the Czech charts.
Vondráčková has written several books, mostly autobiographical. She gave two concerts in Carnegie Hall –the first in 2000, and the second in 2005.
In an interview for Radio Prague International, recorded ahead of her upcoming birthday, Vondráčková said:
“I look back on every period of my career with fondness. There was always something interesting. I can't say which was the best. I like to remember my time at the Rokoko Theatre, meeting and getting to know the big stars like Walda Matuška or Eva Pilarová. Then there was the Golden Kids period. That was very beautiful, we were young, adventurous and eager to get the most from life.
“In the 70s and 80s I travelled a lot the world over, performed at various festivals, started making films. I’ve had great times and I am not ready to call it a day. I am still recording, performing on stage and I'm still having fun.”