Sunday marks 80th anniversary of birth of popular singer Jiri Slitr

This coming Sunday, February 15th, marks the 80th anniversary of the birth of Jiri Slitr near the town of Semily in north Bohemia. Slitr was a man of many talents: he was a singer, pianist, composer and actor, as well as a qualified lawyer. His main love was jazz, and in his mid 20s he helped set up a group called the Czechoslovak Dixieland Jazz Band.

The most important meeting of his life came in 1957, when he met Jiri Suchy: together they became one of Czechoslovakia's best loved musical and comic duos. Suchy and Slitr will forever be associated with the Semafor theatre, which was established in 1959. Their comedy Clovek z pudy, or The Man from the Loft, was performed at Semafor and later adapted for television. Though they didn't appear in it, songs from the musical comedy such as Vcera nedele byla, Leta Dozravani and Dite skolou povinne were among their biggest hits. Other hit musical comedies followed, along with a slew of hit songs which remain popular to this day.

In July 1962 the two Jiris, Suchy and Slitr, made their first appearances together as actors at the Semafor theatre, and by all accounts brought the house down. The two remained household names throughout the 1960s, until on St Stephen's Day, 1969, Jiri Slitr tragically died after a gas leak. The cause of his death led some to speculate he had taken his own life.