January the 3rd, 2024 – It seems too little to call him merely “Croatian singer Oliver Dragojević”, as he was far more than a performer with a good voice. A cult figure and a household name, here are five facts about the man who put Dalmatia’s soul into song.
His discography spanned almost five decades
There are very many Croatian musicians past and present who enjoy or have enjoyed huge support and love from the public, but few have ever managed to reach the heights Croatian singer Oliver Dragojević did. An enduring symbol of the Croatian music scene who effortlessly blended traditional Dalmatian klapa style music with more modern twists, and even jazz, he was adored even beyond Croatian borders.
Despite a great many of his songs being about Croatia and his home region of the country, Dalmatia, he enjoyed a lot of respect in Croatia’s immediate region. Having shown a love and genuine talent for music from a very early age, his parents encouraged Oliver and his siblings to learn to play various instruments. Oliver was quick to pick up the harmonica, and put on performances for not only the passengers aboard the Split-Vela Luka ferries, but also for other children who lived near him in Vela Luka, on the central Dalmatian island of Korčula.
He also soon mastered the bass guitar, clarinet and the piano after being enrolled in a music school.
His final album, put out to the world in 2013, was called Tišina mora (The silence of the sea).
His Music won him numerous accolades and awards
Croatian singer Oliver Dragojević’s talents saw him receive numerous accolades and awards throughout his many decades of work. Having reached the dizzying heights of critical acclaim both at home and in the region, Oliver took home several Indexi (an award from Bosnia) and Porin (from the Republic of Croatia) awards.
He is one of very few Croatian musicians to have performed at the likes of the Carnegie Hall & the Royal Albert Hall
Croatian singer Oliver Dragojević had such an influence that it was enough to drop his surname and simply refer to him as “Oliver”. People knew precisely to whom you were referring by saying his forename alone. A Croatian musical icon and far more than “just” another composer in the eyes of the wider public, he also enjoyed great success and accolades outside of Croatia and this country’s more immediate region.
He is one of very, very few Croatian artists to have performed at very prestigious venues such as the Royal Albert Hall in London, Carnegie Hall in Manhattan, Sydney Opera House in Australia and L’Olympia in Paris.
He was awarded for his services to Croatian culture
Croatian singer Oliver Dragojević’s contribution to Croatian culture is insurmountable. His music is immortal and his legacy is impressive. In 1995, he was rightfully awarded the Order of Danica Hrvatska for his endless services to culture. The Order of Danica Hrvatska is otherwise the fourteenth most significant medal given by the Republic of Croatia and is awarded for various contributions to society, from business to culture and the arts.
The Croatian Government assigned a national day of Mourning when he passed away
In August 2017, Croatian singer Oliver Dragojević revealed that he had been diagnosed with lung cancer. The news was devastating to his swathes of adoring fans. His tireless battle with the disease that would ultimately strip him of his life went on for one year.
In June of the following year, Oliver was admitted to hospital after suffering from respiratory difficulties which rendered him unable to breathe properly on his own. As his disease entered into its final stages, as much as could be done for Oliver to relieve him of any pain was done. At 02:00 in the morning on the 29th of July 2018, he succumbed to end stage cancer and passed away at Split’s Clinical Hospital Centre.
Oliver’s death evoked a waterfall of tears.
His funeral procession was poignant and impressive. As his body was transported by catamaran, followed by many other vessels, from Split to his native Vela Luka for the very last time, it highlighted just how much of a cult figure he was to the people of Croatia, particularly to Dalmatians. Along with those on board the boats which followed the catamaran carrying Oliver’s body, over 10,000 mourners turned out on Split’s waterfront (riva) to bid him a final farewell on his final journey home.
A national day of mourning was declared on 31st of July by the Croatian Government. Such was the effect Oliver and his songs had on the Croatian people.