Exhibition concept: Maja Šojat-Bikić, MSc, Boris Mašić, Vesna Leiner
Multimedia: Maja Šojat-Bikić, MSc
Exhibition design: Ante Serdar, Maja Šojat-Bikić, MSc, Boris Mašić
Poster design: Miljenko Gregl
On a fragile raft in the sea of pops, Ivo Robić has kept his place more than half a century. Withstanding all the wartime and post-war trials of light music, he rose from being a bar and radio singer to the high society of European and world crooners. From being his school’s regular reader at literary meetings, he developed into the pioneer of interpretation with perfect pronunciation and promoter of the melody of the Croatian language.
He either song or composed the finest pages of the Croatian pop songbook and cut a whole salon of disks. Generations of lads used the refrain from the song That little hand of yours to whistle below the windows of their girls. His song Only once has by now for fifty years been keeping warm hope for the one true love of a lifetime. Heart, Good Night, in many people’s opinion his best tune, for decades announced closing time at dances and called all hearts in love to the last dance. The song You’re just seventeen (Save the last dance for me) was used to send radio birthday greetings to all seventeen-year-old girls for some sixty years.
With his song about a better tomorrow, Morgen, he won the longed-for spaces of freedom and the very acme of success – a Polydor Gold Disk, rose to the top of the Billboard chart, became the singer of the season on the waves of that cult station for launching melodies, Radio Luxembourg, hurtled round the world and appeared in the best-known TV review on the other side of the Atlantic – the Perry Como Show.
He sang everywhere and for everyone and was able suddenly to touch the hearts of thousands of Croatian expatriates, giving them at the end of a concert another song or two from the old country.
The first gentleman of Croatian pop, regular guest at all domestic festivals, always even-tempered, he would sing anything given him. Lover of the sea, the Kvarner, Opatija and Zagreb, he never wanted any other homeland, because music anyway knows no borders. As Croatian-German pop star, today he still finds his way into all the compilations made up from the archives of pop.
THE TASK OF A LIFETIME: SINGING
On May 14, 1922, the marriage took place in Garešnica of Marija Legin and Stjepan Robić, court clerk. Their first child, Ivo, was born on January 29, 1923. Ivo was joined by two more brothers, Rajko and Miroslav. The family moved to Bjelovar, where Ivo completed the state mixed primary school in 1934.
He started singing as early as high school, and he was soon christened the “Bjelovar Tino Rossi”. When they had considered Ivo’s vocation, his parents “had always seen him as a doctor, a lawyer or something of that kind… But as for the musical calling, singing around bars, Heaven forbid, never that. That was practically a disgrace at the time, nothing worthwhile”.
After taking the leaving examination in the Bjelovar high school, in 1943 Ivo went off to Zagreb. One day, out of the blue, he sent his parents a telegram: “Don’t worry about anything, I passed the audition for the wireless. Listen to me tomorrow. I am singing for mama”.
A VETERAN OF ALL THE CROATIAN FESTIVALS
Ivo Robić took part in Croatian music festivals for almost half a century, to be precise, for 46 years – from 1953 until 1998. At the first festival, a competition for the best dance melodies, held in Zagreb on December 6, 1953, Robić performed all the festival compositions together with Rajka Vali. From then on he took part in 88 festival events, made about 150 festival appearances and won some thirty awards for the composers, himself appearing as composer with 48 compositions at all seven Croatian festivals. He never made use of his worldwide fame to lay down conditions about which songs he would sing, but, calm and dignified, accepted everything he was offered.
Among his biggest festival successes, his interpretations of the following compositions certainly deserve individual mention: Ta tvoja ruka mala (Lj. Kuntarić – B. Chudoba; Zagreb 53), Ako nećeš da te ljubim (Lj. Kuntarić – B. Chudoba; Zagreb 56), Meštrovićev zdenac (V. Čaklec – D. Britvić; Zagreb 60), Podoknica Zagrebu (L. Županović; Zagreb 62), Golubovi (B. Mihaljević – D. Britvić; Zagreb 64), Zbog čega te volim (M. Bogliuni – S. Šelebaj; Zagreb 65), Mala djevojčica (M. Vandekar – A. Ruben; Opatija 58), Autobus Calypso (Lj. Kuntarić – B. Chudoba; Opatija 59), Mužikaši (I. Robić – M. Radušić; Krapina 66), Vužgi (I. Stamać – P. Kanižaj; Krapina 67), Moja kala (I. Robić – A. Dedić; Split 63) and Kukuruzi se njišu (P. Gotovac – M. S. Mađer; Požega 69).
As festival composer, he is most remembered for his songs set to lyrics in the Kaikavian dialect. His Mužikaši [Music Makers] became the trademark of the Kaikavian Song Festival in Krapina, where, in 1998, he brought his festival career to a close.
THE PATH TO WORLDWIDE FAME
In 1955 Ivo Robić set out the first time to the West, to the Bavarian summer resort of Hof an der Saale, where he sang in a nightclub. On his return home, his popularity had grown, and when he was in Belgrade in 1956 a delegation from the Czech record company Supraphon picked him to make a record of American and Czech titles to be sung in English. Thus began his journeys between Zagreb and Prague, and in 1957 he made a guest appearance with Radio Belgrade Orchestra at the Leipzig Fair and in East Berlin.
But it was the invitation to cut a trial disc for Hamburg’s Polydor, the pop label of the prestigious Deutsche Grammophon, at the end of 1958 that was to mark the real beginning of his path to world celebrity. He made 28 singles for Polydor, the most successful being made with producer, arranger and conductor Bert Kaempfert. In just a year, his Morgen brought him a Polydor gold disc and a bronze lion from Radio Luxembourg. On the top of the charts of the best known music magazines, Robić and Morgen left behind them such well-known names as Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, Paul Anka and Dean Martin. Then came an appearance on the famed Perry Como Show of NBC, the Ed Sullivan Show, the Dick Clark Show and others, and numerous tours around Europe, North America and Australia.
FROM HIS OWN SONGBOOK
Ivo Robić had started composing while still in the State Music School in Gundulićeva Street in Zagreb. Among his best-known compositions are Rodni moj kraju (1947), Srce, laku noć (1954), Samo jednom se ljubi (1957) and Mužikaši (1966).
He sent his compositions to all the country’s festivals. He wrote the most compositions for the Krapina Festival of Kaikavian Songs (1966-1999), some of which won prizes – Daj, otpri obločec (1st prize of the expert jury, 1970), Tam (2nd prize from the audience, 1979) and Regi, Regica (2nd prize of the audience, 1982).
Robić composed a number of songs dedicated to the city of Zagreb, and for the Zagreb Festival he wrote Noć u mome gradu (1972), Beli Zagreb (1976) and Zagrebu (1979). He also tried his hand out as a composer of songs for children and thus for the TV festival “The Children Sing 75, Hello, Hello Country”, he wrote the composition Pozdrav Zagrebu.
The lyrics for Robić’s compositions were mainly written by Mario Kinel, Milan Doležal and Milan Krmpotić. Robić also tried out his hand writing his own lyrics – Rodni moj kraju and Primorski refren, and his verses were also set to music by other composers – Mali cvrčak (Miljenko Prohaska), Petar plete Petru petlju (Alfi Kabiljo) and Zimska bajka (Boris Sorokin).
The Ivo Robić Papers also revealed musical notebooks with sketches of songs and a sketch of a musical with the working title Podravina, after a libretto by the Koprivnica poet Milan Krmpotić.
The biggest melody factory in the country, Jugoton, started working in 1947 when it took over the Elektroton record production workshop (founded in 1937). Until 1963 it was housed in Ilica 213, but on September 11, 1963, a brand new factory was officially opened in Zagreb’s Dubrava.
Up to 1964 Jugoton had had its gramophone and disc salon in Ilica 5, in the Oktogon (opened on December 4, 1926 by Edison Bell Penkala, taken over by Elektroton in 1938, and in 1947 by Jugoton – it was here that Robić saw most of his discs sold). The new musical salon for the sale of records, gramophones, radios and music automata was opened on September 4, 1964 in Bogovićeva ulica. In this contemporarily-decorated salon, after a design by the architect Vjenceslav Richter, there were eight seats for listening to records with earphones, and two cabins that enabled stereo discs to be heard.
The Ivo Robić disc selection is very large and provides almost 25 hours of music. As well as 65 shellac records (1949-1959), Jugoton issued 18 Robić singles (14 solos), 28 EPs (11 solos) and 12 solo LPs. Robić also cut a great many records for Supraphon, Polydor, Laurie and other foreign record firms. How many songs did he record all told? We arrived at the number of 484.
Ivo Robić made a number of guest appearances in the Salon, and on April 16, 1965 he held a press conference there to mark his twenty years of professional singing. The Jugoton factory joined in, issuing a jubilee LP. In 1969 the factory gave Robić the prize of the Golden Bird for his million records sold. In this year he commemorated the 20th anniversary of his first record cut for Jugoton. And in 1972, to mark the 25th anniversary of the firm, Robić received a plaque of acknowledgement and gratitude for many years of successful work together.
Text: Maja Šojat-Bikić, MSc
Photo Miljenko Gregl, ZCM
Status Prize of the Croatian Musicians Union for particular contributions to the promotion of Croatian music, 2008
Leiner, Vesna; Maja Šojat-Bikić; Boris Mašić; Veljko Lipovšćak; Siniša Škarica; Stjepan Mihaljinec. Mister Morgen : Ivo Robić.
Zagreb : Zagreb City Museum, 2007