Summer music competition: Czech covers of international hits (PART 2: Rock 'n' roll and country)

What connection do artists such as ABBA, The Beatles, Queen, Stevie Wonder, Bob Dylan and Edith Piaf have with Czechoslovakia? Most of them never even performed in the country. However, Czech cover versions of their songs became huge hits in the former communist state. In many cases, domestic audiences didn’t even realise they were listening to cover versions, not being acquainted with what was going on beyond the Iron Curtain.

This practice of taking a world-famous hit from the English, French or Italian-speaking world and translating or completely rewriting the lyrics for a Czech audience had been a custom since the pre-war era of jazz and swing. And not only in Czechoslovakia – but perhaps more than in most countries, the practice was adopted with enthusiasm, and many Czechs, particularly of the older generation, still prefer their country’s own covers over the original versions.

In our three-part mini-series, we bring you some popular Czechoslovak cover versions of world-famous hits. At the end of each episode we’ll play a special “competition song”. To be in with a chance of receiving a backpack with the Radio Prague International logo, email the name of the original song and its performer to [email protected]. There will be a different winner each week.

Last week’s winner was:

Jayanta Chakrabarts from India

He correctly identified the original version and performer of the competition song, A ty se ptáš co já by Helena Vondráčková, as, of course, The Winner Takes It All by ABBA.

Last week we played you some Czech cover versions of pop, soul, and disco hits and this week, in part two of our mini-series, we bring you some of the most famous Czech versions of well-known rock´n´roll and country songs.

Author: Libor Kukal