Yesterday, two Valérie Čižmárová recording ‘birthdays’ were separated by a matter of half a decade. Today, we have another two, but this time separated by just one year…and remarkably, those recordings ended up on either side of the same disc, making it a perhaps unique instance of the recording of one side of a 45 being separated by such a margin of time from the recording of the other (see below for a ‘health warning’ on this information). Furthermore, there could not be much of a greater contrast between those two songs.
I will start with the first of these sides, then work back one year, commencing with a series of photos of the architecturally very pleasing recording venue for both, (Mozarteum, Jungmannova, Prague, designed by Jan Kotěra), which I visited back in January. In the first of these, Mozarteum is the red-roofed building on the right-hand side, to the viewer, of Jungmannova.
On 4th May 1973, Valinka recorded ‘Důkaz mi dej’ (in recently released compilations, with the ‘mi’ and ‘dej’ transposed in the title) (‘Prove It To Me’), which was a cover of a record originally by The Archies, ‘Who’s Your Baby’, with music by Jeff Barry and Andy Kim, with Czech-language lyrics by František Klečka, to the accompaniment of Skupina Svatopluka Čecha (The Svatopluk Čech Group).
Here are František Klečka’s lyrics, together with a translation, based on output from the automatic translation application, IMTranslator.
Důkaz dej mi, důkaz který má
Váhu vláhy nad pouští
Prove it to me, evidence which has
The weight of moisture over the desert
Důkaz dej mi, důkaz mě zajímá
Mě štěstím rozum opouští
Prove it to me, I need you to do it
I sense happiness is leaving
Kdekdo myslí bůhví jak jsi bohatý
Že máš v bance nejmíň milión
Věř mi láska všechno zlato přeplatí
Hledám ve Tvých očích Orion
Everybody thinks God knows how you’re rich
That you have at least a million in the bank
Trust me, love is worth all that gold
I’m looking for Orion in your eyes
Důkaz dám Ti, důkaz dej mi
Důkaz, který má
Váhu vláhy nad pouští
Ten důkaz dám Ti
Ten důkaz dej mi
Důkaz mě zajímá
Mě štěstím rozum opouští
I’ll prove it to you, prove it to me
Evidence that has
The weight of moisture over the desert
I’ll prove it to you
Prove it to me
I need you to do it
I sense happiness is leaving
Prstýnek bys mohl dát mi z kapradí
Kroužek prostý jaký právě máš
Kapradí to stěží zlato nahradí
Ale Ty mi něhu k němu dáš
The ring you could give me from a fern
A simple ring is just what you have
Ferns are hardly a substitute for gold
But you do not give tenderness to her
Píseň otázkou končím
Naposled se Tě ptám
Je snad zlatý kdo se zlatem chlubí
Na to se Tě ptám
The song is nearing its end
It’s the last time I ask you
Is it perhaps gold that boasts of gold
That’s what I ask
Důkaz dej, důkaz mě zajímá …
Prove it to me, I need you to do it. . .
It was a YouTube compilation, ‘Top 20 Soul In Czechoslovak Pop Songs (1968-1973)’, by Hana Blažeková via which I first became aware of ‘Důkaz mi dej’ (which, much to my shame, I had to look into to establish its surprising Archies-related origins) circa a year ago and seeing that the one who kicked off my former Eastern Bloc vinyl collecting was a part of that compilation was almost needless to say very exciting. It also was the first time it began to occur to me what a (really) great voice Valinka had. I have subsequently encapsulated it as the raw power of Lulu, the ‘Blackness’ of Dusty Springfield and the gorgeous richness of Helen Shapiro, thereby combining three of the greats of the Britain of the 1960s. Valinka was often compared with two contemporaries, both of whom have now prematurely departed this Earth, Věra Špinarová and Jana Robbová, who were, like Valinka, small of physical stature but gigantic of voice. However, it was certainly conceded by the first of these that she envied Valinka’s voice – probably because when she really opened up and turned on that power the voice stayed smooth and rich, without developing a metallic edge. In any language, ‘Důkaz mi dej’ has to go down as one of the greatest Soul songs ever committed to vinyl and if Valinka did see herself as in competition with the aforementioned, as the fade-out, with Valinka singing ‘na, na, na, na-na’, began I’m sure she’d have been thinking, “job done! now let’s have some fun!”
Going back in time by exactly one year, let us now consider the other side of that disc. If you thought ‘Důkaz mi dej’ was epic ‘Huascarán’ probably tops it with the story behind it.
On 31st May 1970, (my mother’s 40th and my sister-in-law’s 5th birthday), fifteen Czechoslovak mountaineers lost their lives during an expedition climbing Huascarán, in the Peruvian Andes, together with more than twenty thousand Peruvians, as a result of the effects of the Ancash Earthquake. Here is a list of the mountaineers lost.
It was decided, as an act of memorial, to record a song and whom should be chosen to do justice to the scale of this event but a pretty, twenty-year-old blonde…as if to say that Valinka’s voice was indeed the best, even at that young age….
…which would be a good opportunity, here, to inject the following words of caution regarding Valinka’s age at the time of the recording of ‘Huascarán’.
One of the contributory factors in the build-up to my setting up the sister Blog to ‘Bananas For Breakfast’, ‘Girls Of The Golden East’, was the story of the former Pop Star, now Radio Host, from France, Carene/Karen Cheryl / Isabelle Morizet, who, incidentally, shares my Birthday of 19th July. In the early years of my acquaintance over cyberspace with her story I was so confident that the vast majority of the Web-based sources that had her birth date as that date in 1955 were unquestionably correct. However, gradually, as more primary sources without the filter of the Web (which, after all, is compiled by error-prone human beings!) came to my attention, that birth year began not to add up at all and I concluded from what I was learning that it must have been two years into the future. I don’t know who was responsible for putting out that bit of duff information that spread like wildfire around the Web, but they have an awful lot for which to answer, not least, fans of Isabelle’s congratulating her on her ’60th Birthday’ when she’d just turned fifty-eight! I don’t want, myself, to be part of spreading around a similar false rumour!
If one reads the translation of the magazine article below one will note that there is a reference to Valinka working with The Svatopluk Čech Group since January of the year of the publication of that article (1973). If that is so that would not tally with ‘Huascarán’, like ‘Důkaz mi dej’, being to the accompaniment of that group in early May of 1972.
Now let us imagine the following ‘reality’ (I use the quotation marks advisedly) on the ground.
We are recording a tribute to mark the anniversary of the deaths of these mountaineers, so what do we do?
We record the tribute song…and then we wait until a date exactly one year hence before we get around to recording the other side of the 45 and then we release it.
Does this sound logical? Does this sound like a genuine tribute to the memories of those mountaineers, not to mention the many, many thousands of locals who perished?
I should imagine that the answers to both those questions would be in the negative in the minds of most.
I suspect that somebody made a slip on a keyboard, entering a ‘2’ instead of a ‘3’ at the end of ‘197’, put that information out on the Web, realised that they’d made an error, but didn’t own up to it and hoped that it would all blow over in the end.
So, all in all, unless any BFB readers come forward backing up the incredible tale of the respective recording dates of two sides of a 45 being separated by exactly one year, I am going to question what I have written above and state the actual recording date as 4th May Nineteen-Seventy-Three.
It’s still a pretty impressive performance by a twenty-one-year-old!
As in the case of ‘Důkaz mi dej’, accompaniment came from Skupina Svatopluka Čecha. The music was by Vladimír Rukavička and the lyrics were by Petr Markov, with a recital of the events surrounding the tragedy read by Mirek Černý.
Here are Petr Markov’s lyrics and recital text, together with an IMTranslator translation, in places suitably modified.
Ve čtvrtek 23. dubna 1970 odcestovala z Prahy do Limy výprava československých horolezců vedená doktorem Arnoštem Černíkem. Jejím cílem byl vrchol nejvyšší peruánské hory Huascarán.
On Thursday, April 23, 1970, the Czechoslovak climbers headed by Dr. Arnošt Cernik traveled from Prague to Lima. Its goal was the summit of the highest Peruvian mountain Huascaran.
Od horských pramenů
nejtěžší z kamenů
na prsou mám.
Přichází z úbočí,
kde zvoní cepín tvůj,
v slzách se rozmočí,
až se vrátíš, drahý můj.
From mountain springs
The hardest of the stones
I have my breasts.
It comes from the slopes,
Where your bowl rings,
Tears in tears,
When you come back, my dear.
S odvahou zázraků,
nese se tvůj stín,
k stříbrným oblakům,
a ještě výš.
Já však jsem zbabělá
a tonu v obavách,
čekám tě, lásko má,! Vrat se živ a zdrav.
With the courage of miracles,
Your shadow is carried,
To the silver clouds,
And even higher.
But I’m cowardly
And in fear,
I’m waiting for you, my love! Come back alive and healthy.
V neděli 31. května – večer postihlo jihoamerickou republiku Peru katastrofální zemětřesení, které si vyžádalo desítky tisíc lidských životů. Ve sněhových masách nedaleko jezera Llanganuco, zmizela výprava československých horolezců, kteří sem přijeli pokořit nejvyšší horu peruánských And Huascarán.
On Sunday, May 31 – the night, the South American Republic of Peru suffered a catastrophic earthquake that claimed tens of thousands of lives. In the snowmobiles near Lake Llanganuco, the expedition of Czechoslovak climbers disappeared here, who came to humble the highest mountain of the Andes, Huascarán.
Od horských pramenů…
From mountain springs …
Recently, Jana Bajerová, a fellow Member of the ‘Valérie ČIŽMÁROVÁ’ Facebook Group, uploaded a fascinating insight into the way that Valinka was reported on at the height of her recording career in 1973 out of the in-house magazine of the Communist Young Pioneers, ‘Sedmička pionýrů’, in which both ‘Důkaz mi dej’ and ‘Huascarán’ are mentioned.
I tried seeing how much of it I could translate without the aid of the aforementioned IMTranslator, (with the exception of the word kreslení – drawing). Here is how far I got, showing that I am making progress in understanding Czech (not forgetting Slovak…Valinka’s native Hungarian is next!). There was one paragraph (the penultimate one) that, despite understanding several individual words, utterly defeated me in terms of making sentences out of it. There are also a few dotted lines where I didn’t get anywhere.
Do you like children and fairy tales?
I like small children and fairy tales too, because I still am a sort of child. And up to now I still like being read fairy tales.
Which one of your songs do you like most? And which one brings back the best memories?
I had my biggest success with the song ‘Léta letí’. And which one did I like singing the best? Perhaps the one which was my very first – ‘Sunny’. I sing it to this day.
What songs have you released or are you releasing on record?
I am recording for Supraphon. In the past few days I have released ‘Důkaz mi dej’ and ‘Huascarán’. The latter is devoted to the anniversary of the tragedy of the Czechoslovakian mountaineers in Peru. On the following record I performed original Czech material by the composers Vítězslav Hádl, Ladislav Pikart and Zdeněk Němeček, with lyrics by Petr Markov – ‘V poschodí pátém’ and ‘Malý princ’, based on the eponymous book by Saint-Exupéry. I am due to perform the first one in an appearance on the TV Hitparade of Bratislava.
Are you already making plans for your first LP?
Perhaps it is already in the shops. There is a block of old successful songs on it, based on ‘Koko’, ‘Léta letí’, ‘Sunny’ and another three tracks of foreign origin.All the rest of the songs will be original Czech material.
Have you always wanted to be a singer? What did you want to be when you were little?
From the age of four I went to the ballet and my family…….I went to the conservatoire. It was only at school that I started to sing. I took part in various contests and singing began to interest me more than ballet. Eventually, I stuck with singing and I don’t regret it.
……….on your home town, Michalovce?
In the little town where I was born……and in the time when I won the contest, Talent 68 I had an offer from the Rokoko Theatre and departed to Prague. From this time I don’t demonstrate one single preference. Even if I didn’t go and perform in Slovakia, I record for television and sing in Slovak. In the course of my travels I always think of my native Michalovce or its immediate surroundings.
Did you enjoy learning at school? And what presented you with the most difficulties?
I enjoyed singing, drawing and handicrafts. That which presented the most difficulties – in the more senior years, at any rate – was Physics.
Did you or do you take part in any sport?
I went to the ballet, but that doesn’t count as a sport. I did, however, do figure skating for about five years. Now there isn’t time for that any more, only five minutes’ exercise at home. Alternatively, in Winter, I might have time to go skating on the Štvanice.
Where and with whom are you singing at the moment?
From January this year the Svatopluk Čech Group has worked with me. Under the direction of Václav Junek I have appeared in a two-hour-long show called ‘Valérie 73′. With this we are touring around the whole of the Republic, the Prague première is scheduled for September at the Rokoko. My guest on the programme is the young singer from Plzen, Miroslav Hajšman.
And you are also going abroad?
I have made contact with the artists’ agency, Pragokoncert. At the moment there is the prospect of tours to the DDR and Poland.
What do you do when you have some spare time?
I like cooking. And when there is a little more time – this would be only occasionally – I read a lot.
Who are your favourites?
Of authors – Lion Feuchtwanger. Of actors – I like Louis de Funès. And singers? There would be a lot of them. Aretha Franklin, Tom Jones, Jimi Hendrix…
Do you like animals? And do you have any at home?
I always mainly really longed for a certain kind of dog. I talked about it with my husband and he chose and bought for me a white poodle last Christmas. It is an eight-month-old bitch and she is called Čika. When we are going on long tours, Mum looks after her. On shorter journeys or….she travels with us – sits quietly and listens.
(Valinka is, FYI, pictured with the aforementioned Čika…in the same black and white polka dot trouser suit as seen in the first of the photos in the article…that I think would still be very fashionable today)
Given her mention of ‘Aretha Franklinová’ (I love the way that foreign female personalities have ‘-ová’ appended to their names, making them just a little bit Czech/Slovak!) and Tom Jones you can see how, given those influences, Valinka was such an incredible Soul singer.
I also like her, to say the least, ‘unconventional’ choices of ‘Favourite Author’ and ‘Favourite Actor’. It wouldn’t have been the usual sort of response to those questions by a star in a magazine like ‘Jackie’!
This is no ‘average’ Pop Star!
On the top of a mountain, gazing down at all the rest!
…and finally, if that ‘Valérie 73’ was a TV programme and was available on YouTube, that would be quite some video to embed in BFB!