Sunday, May 06, 2007

Djordje Novković: 1943-2007

Pop composer Djordje Novković has died at the age of 64.

2007 marked the prolific songwriter's 40th year in showbusiness, and a double CD containing his greatest hits was released only a few weeks ago as part of a series of celebratory events: a special edition of Zuhra light show in his honour was to be followed by an ensemble concert in Zagreb's Vatroslav Lisinski concert hall at the end of the year.

Born in the Serbian town of Šabac (according to the Croatian Composers' Society) or in Sarajevo (according to many of his newspaper obituaries today), Novković studied piano and conducting at the Sarajevo musical academy and began his career as a member of the Sarajevo band Indexi before founding his own group Pro Arte. He moved to Zagreb in 1970 to compose for Croatia's largest record label Jugoton (later Croatia Records), with whom he remained throughout his career.

A pioneer of the Croatian style of pop/folk crossover, Novković already anticipated the characteristic trend of 1990s Croatian pop production in the mid-1980s in his work for the then Sarajevo-based Neda Ukraden, whose hit Zora je (It's dawn) became one of his greatest successes (behind only Stari Pjer by Ivica Percl, which would be re-recorded by Nana Mouskouri as Dans le soleil, dans le vent). After experimenting with singers such as Duško Lokin and Dolores (with whom he tried to revive many of Ukraden's songs in 1993), he achieved some of his biggest hits of the Croatian era on Severina's 1999 and 2001 albums.

Novković's work in the early 1990s included Croatia's first Eurovision entry as an independent state in 1993, Don't ever cry (initiating a still unbroken sequence of Croatian appearances in the Eurovision final), as well as a number of patriotic songs in support of the Croatian war effort (among them Sanja Trumbić's Danke Deutschland and Moj je dragi u narodnoj gardi (My boyfriend's in the national guard)). At least one of his earlier patriotic compositions from the Yugoslav era may stand the test of time for longer: Zdravko Čolić's anthemic Druže Tito, mi ti se kunemo (Comrade Tito, we swear to you).

Novković's son Boris is himself a successful musician, mainly a pop-rock singer-songwriter who ventured into folk/pop territory in 2005-06 on the occasion of two Croatian Eurovision entries, as performer in 2005 and composer of Severina's entry in 2006.

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