'Sinatra of the East' Karel Gott dies at 80


Prague (AFP)

Czech pop singer Karel Gott, who was a particular favourite in neighbouring Germany where media once dubbed him the "Sinatra of the East", died at 80, his family said Wednesday.

"With the deepest sadness in my heart I announce that shortly before midnight on Tuesday my beloved husband Karel Gott passed away after a long and serious illness," his wife Ivana Gottova wrote on his website.

"He passed away at home, in quiet sleep, surrounded by his family."

Gott revealed last month he was undergoing treatment for acute leukemia, years after recovering from a cancer.

"Extremely sad news for our whole country. Karel Gott was a real artist who gave himself to others," said Czech President Milos Zeman.

"Karel Gott gave his life to generations, he gave himself to us all," he added in a message tweeted by his spokesman.

Prime Minister Andrej Babis said he would propose to cabinet to hold a state funeral for Gott at Prague's St Vitus Cathedral.

"Divine Karel" as he was known for his impeccable tenor voice, had been voted the most popular singer 42 times in the annual Golden Nightingale poll of Czech music fans.

He released almost 300 records and CDs, selling dozens of millions of them.

His hits include cover versions of Roy Orbison's "Pretty Woman" and Alphaville's "Forever Young", but most were written by Czech composers.

Born on July 14, 1939, Gott trained as an electrical mechanic before studying to be an opera singer.

He rose to stardom in the 1960s touring the US and what was then West Germany, and represented Austria in the Eurovision song contest.

That was when German papers described him as the "Sinatra of the East".

Gott managed to retain his popularity following the 1968 invasion of Prague by Soviet-led armies, a time when many singers were banned from the stage for political reasons.

Gott, who was also a skilled painter and an occasional actor, won awards in countries including Germany, Poland and Russia.

He had two daughters with his wife Ivana, 37 years his junior, as well as two older daughters with previous partners.