Folk, rock, jazz, pop music - the musical tastes of Czechoslovak and later Czech presidents differed significantly. Václav Havel had the most friends among musicians, including world stars.
“Ach synku, synku” ("Oh son, son") is a well-known Czech folk song. It was reputedly the favourite song of the first Czechoslovak president Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk and was played almost every time he visited the countryside. However, according to a biography written by Zdenek Nejedlý, the song TGM liked most was "Teče voda, teče" (“Water is flowing, flowing”).
Václav Havel loved music….
Joan Baez, Frank Zappa, Lou Reed, The Rolling Stones, but also The Plastic People of the Universe and visits to the festival in Trutnov. That was Havel’s musical world in a nutshell. When American President Bill Clinton visited Prague, they went to see live jazz at Reduta to make the saxophone player happy.
There is a famous story about Joan Baez, who came to the Bratislavská lýra in June 1989, before the Velvet Revolution. It was then that a famous photo was taken of Joan Baez coming out of the hotel elevator alongside Václav Havel, who is carrying her guitar, uttering the legendary line: "I'm just her roadie". During the concert, Joan Baez read a written message from the stage in which she greeted Charter 77 and also Václav Havel, who was present. After his first election as Czechoslovak president in 1990, Havel was asked for an interview by the American music magazine Rolling Stone. He agreed on condition that Lou Reed would ask the questions. Reed flew to Prague specifically for this occasion. It was then that Havel and Reed met in person for the first of many times.
There is much documentation of The Rolling Stones meeting Havel at Prague Castle. And it is clear from these shots how respectfully the members of the famous group treat the president, while he seems rather calm and relaxed. The Stones then brought Havel a major gift. In addition to several denim jackets with the band's logo, they gave Havel a small white remote control that could be used to control the lighting settings of Prague Castle’s music hall. They financed this and had their lighting specialist, Patrick Woodroff, make it. Havel is said to have been as happy as a little kid at the time and, to the great delight of the band, was constantly playing with the lighting. "Havel was the only politician I liked," the recently deceased drummer of The Rolling Stones, Charlie Watts, said later.
Václav Klaus with a harmonica, Miloš Zeman on piano
Václav Klaus always liked to distinguish himself from his predecessor. That's why, at least publicly, he preferred jazz. From 2004 on a jazz festival was held at the Castle, which the president supported from his post. In addition, he went to open the Smetanova Litomyšl festival and attended concerts by his loyal secretary Ladislav Jakl's Folimanka Blues band. Mr. Klaus reportedly played the harmonica.
Miloš Zeman targeted a different voter base. His team of supporters before the presidential election included hit-maker Michal David and singer Daniel Hůlka, to whom Zeman later awarded a state award (Hůlka later returned it). Before the presidential election, which brought Zeman a second term in office, he listed as his favorite compositions Sentimental Journey by Ella Fitzgerald, Jednoho se vrátíš sung by Věra Špinarová, the Moravian folk song Za tichů Moravú and Frédéric Chopin's Nocturne.
He could also play a part of Sentimental Journey on the piano for friends. In 2018, during his visit to China, he performed it for local President Xi Jinping. He also played it for then Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev.
Zeman as musical inspiration
Humor, hyperbole, praise and criticism. Surprisingly for some, Miloš Zeman became an inspiration for many musicians. At the time of Zeman's campaign, a music video by someone calling himself Klusidy appeared on YouTube. To the rhythm of a well-known melody by Scott Joplin, he sang not only about Zeman, but also his rivals from the direct election.
Another "Zeman" song is from the area of rap. "Mr. Miloš Zeman is without a doubt an intelligent person," according to Dave Soldy. In his video, he not only reproaches the Czech nation, but also expresses displeasure towards those who helped Zeman get to the Castle.
We will see what musical preferences the new head of state will have. There hasn't been much singing in the campaign yet...
Presidential elections 2023
Retired army general, Petr Pavel, has been elected the next president of Czechia. He will be sworn in on March 9.