The Czechs haven’t had a monarchy since the days of the Hapsburgs, but the closest thing they have these days to a king would probably be Karel Gott – singer, showman, passionately beloved by a certain age group, and generally tolerated by most everyone.

Yesterday was his 64th birthday, and he collapsed at his birthday party. He is in stable condition at an unnamed hospital, and is expected to be released later today, iDnes reports. Like most royalty, little is released about Gott’s health, except that he had some hip troubles last year.

One of the mysteries of being an expat here in Kafkaville is trying to understand the passion of a certain Czech generation for Karel Gott. Just as the inexplicable French obsession with Johnny Hallyday is a puzzle for expats living there, I’ve tried on several occasions to get Gott, but I think it’s just going to be one of those mysteries that I’ll never be able to entirely understand.

He’s been called the Sinatra of the East, but his style has little in common with Sinatra’s. It’s closer to Wayne Newton’s, and that’s no slight against either him or Wayne Newton. Sinatra had a rougher voice, and Gott – like Newton – has a pleasant tenor, and can still hit the highs with the best of ’em. He’s even played Vegas, and his website has a biography in English which you can read here.

My homie and DJ partner Tony recently asked me which records by Karel Gott he should look out for, and to be honest, I didn’t have a good answer, except to mention his song in the hilarious Western parody Limonadovy Joe, or maybe in the excellent musical Kdyby tisíc klarinetů . Maybe you can leave some suggestions in the comments.

Update 17:08 Tue 15 July: Doctors say it was definitely not a heart attack, and was probably “minor neurological incident” in the brain that caused his collapse. He’s recovering at home after being released from Thomayer hospital this afternoon.

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