Popular composer and singer Petr Hapka dies at 70

Petr Hapka, Michal Horáček, photo: CTK

The popular Czech composer and singer Petr Hapka has died at the age of 70. Many hit songs that Hapka co-authored have become part of the culture, while he was also a prolific composer of music for film and television.

Petr Hapka,  Michal Horáček,  photo: CTK
Petr Hapka was born in Prague into an artistic family and was playing piano by the age of three. He first made a name for himself as a composer in the field of chansons, and it was with one of the genre’s greatest local exponents, Hana Hegerová, that he shared the microphone on the ever-popular song Levandulová.

But it was later, when Hapka began a three-decade partnership with lyricist Michal Horáček, that he really hit his stride. Together the pair penned hits for Karel Gott, Lucie Bilá, Jana Kirschner and many, many others.

When the news broke of Hapka’s death on Tuesday at the age of 70, Horáček was among the first to pay tribute.

“I can never stop remembering him, because he was part of my life and part of the lives of many other colleagues – he made loads of movies. But mainly he’s become part of many people’s live; they needed his music, because it gave them the special emotion which was in him and which he knew how to convey. Luckily his music remains with us and will speak to people for a very long time.”

Among the scores of musicians who performed songs written by Hapka and Horáček was Michael Kocáb. He said he had great respect for the breadth of the former’s compositional skills.

Michael Kocáb,  photo: Šárka Ševčíková
“I admired him very much for that my whole life. His inventiveness and originality. Every song was a one-off and didn’t remind you of anything that had come before. He was also an immensely kind and goodhearted person. We spent a lot of time together, but never once did we have any conflict while recording.”

As well as pop songs, the elegant and bohemian Hapka wrote music for close on 100 movies, including Léto s kovbojem (Summer with a Cowboy) and the Tom Sawyer adaptation Páni kluci, as well as numerous TV shows and theatre plays.

Film director Juraj Herz collaborated with him on numerous projects. He said on Tuesday night that he had chosen not to visit the bohemian composer recently, when his health had deteriorated dramatically.

“I didn’t want to see him in a helpless state, because I’d known him as an impressive figure, a healthy, capable person. So I didn’t visit him, which I’m sorry about. But on the other hand it’s probably good, because he was in that catastrophic state, close to death.”