One Year Without Oliver Dragojević: Remembering the Singer on July 29th

Daniela Rogulj

July 29, 2019 – Oliver Dragojević lost his battle with cancer on July 29, 2018, at the age of 71. Today, we remember the region’s most beloved singer.

The famed and favorite Split musician forever closed his eyes in the early morning hours of July 29, 2018, following a tough battle with lung cancer discovered in August 2017, reports

Oliver Dragojević left behind his wife Vesna, sons Dino, Davor and Damir, and five grandchildren, as well as numerous bereaved colleagues and fans. The day of his death was proclaimed a national day of mourning, and for his final farewell in Split on July 31,  2018, tens of thousands of people paid their respects in a spectacle that will be remembered and recounted for many years to come.

Hajduk Split fan group Torcida said goodbye to the musician by lighting a flare with Oliver’s image from the bell tower of Sv. Duje, and for the last time, Oliver embarked on his final journey to Vela Luka with hundreds of boats glittering the sea. Oliver was buried In Vela Luka on August 2nd per his wishes, and locals paid their respects for days, leaving flowers in front of the home where he was born.

Oliver was born on December 7, 1947, and spent his childhood in Vela Luka on the island of Korčula. He fell in love with music already in his early childhood, after his father Marko gave him a harmonica. 

“I could have broken it, but I kept it safe and played it all day. I was maybe 3 or 4 years old,” Oliver revealed in an interview. Oliver would entertain his peers from the neighborhood with his harmonica playing, but also the boat passengers traveling the Split-Vela Luka route.

In 1963, he was entrusted as a singer and keyboard player of the famous Batali band from Split. Four years later at the invitation of Zdenko Runjić, he made his debut at the Split Festival. He performed Runjić’s “Picaferj”, though his performance did not get him to the final.

Oliver then joined Dubrovački trubaduri and quickly participated in the founding of the popular group More. He returned to the Split Festival in 1995 with Runjić’s song “Galeb i ja“. Though he did not win, this performance pushed Oliver alongside the biggest stars, and the rest was history.

Oliver’s success is confirmed by the fact that he is one of the few Croatian musicians who can boast performances in New York’s Carnegie Hall, London’s Royal Albert Hall, the Olympia in Paris and the Sydney Opera House. Although he could live anywhere he wanted, his heart had always brought him back to his favorite Split – a place he never wanted to leave.

Apart from Split and Hajduk, Oliver’s heart was full thanks to his wife Vesna, whom he fell in love with at first glance.  He first noticed her on the Stradun in Dubrovnik while he was playing in 1973, and married her only one year later.

Even though Oliver had to cancel the concerts he had planned due to the progression of his illness, his positivity and strength carried him through to the very end. Oliver’s wife and sons were by his side as he closed his eyes forever. 

Today, and always, we remember Oliver Dragojević.

Translated from

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