Czech music world mourns loss of rock guitarist Radim Hladík

Celebrated Czech rock guitarist Radim Hladík has died just a few days short of his 70th birthday. He had been battling pulmonary fibrosis for a number of years and passed away on Sunday morning. Figures in the world of Czech music have been paying tribute to the beloved musician.

Radim Hladík, photo: CTKRadim Hladík, photo: CTK Radim Hladík is considered to be one of the greatest Czech rock guitarists of all time; his accomplished lead guitar skills evocative of the likes of Eric Clapton. In 2013, he spoke with Radio Prague and reflected on the musicians which had inspired him:

“The person who influenced me most was Jimi Hendrix. He showed me freedom. For me, music equals freedom. I can’t stand clichés. Apart from maybe two songs, every time I play I improvise. The freedom within the music is terribly inspiring – and that’s why I still enjoy it.”

The Czech rock band Blue Effect with whom Radim Hladík played since 1968 featured countless members over its almost fifty years of existence. Radim Hladík was one of its founding members, and the only original musician who remained with the group as it continued to perform for audiences as late as this October.

Photo: SupraphonPhoto: Supraphon The Prague musician studied classical guitar playing as a youngster, joining his first band, Komety, in 1963 at the tender age of 15. Hladík found his first success as a musician playing for The Matadors, a Czechoslovak rock group riding the late 1960s cultural explosion. Hladík left the group after the Soviet invasion in August 1968, soon joining Blue Effect along with bass player Jiří Kozel, guitarist and singer Vladimír Mišík and drummer Vlado Čech. The normalization era meant the band was forced to use the Czech equivalent name of “Modrý efekt”. In 2013, Hladík explained to Radio Prague the meaning behind the band’s name – a special document exempting men from mandatory military service.

“In the first line-up in 1968, all of us had ‘blue books’. That meant that we were saved from having to go into the army for two years. We always said it meant that we had two more years than everybody else.”

The band’s first studio album was issued in 1970. Called “Meditace”, more than half of the songs were either written or co-written by Hladík. A total of nine studio albums were issued by the group as well as a number of live albums. Hladík also released albums collaborating with other artists, for example 1996’s “Voliéra”, an experimental work with Czech female guitarist and composer Dagmar Andrtová-Voňková. Blue Effect itself was disbanded in 1990, but was revived again in 2004, with Radim Hladík embarking on a busy touring schedule well into his sixties.

Radim Hladík, photo: Jan SklenářRadim Hladík, photo: Jan Sklenář Figures across the Czech cultural scene have been paying tribute to the late guitarist. Czech rock singer Michal Prokop described Hladík as one of the greatest figures of Czech music, adding that he remained a warm and down to earth person. The Czech ministry of culture also reacted, noting on its Twitter page that the loss of Radim Hladík will be felt by the entire Czech cultural scene.