Welcome to Hit of the Century, our series in which you will get closely acquainted with hit songs across 100 years of Czechoslovakia’s and the Czech Republic’s existence – one song for every year since the country was founded.
Today we focus on the second year of Czechoslovakia’s existence, 1919. In the military archives, it is not hard to find songs which were popular during both World Wars and served as a kind of moral support during those times of conflict. One of the famous Czech songs from WWII which gained international fame is Jaromir Vejvoda’s Škoda lásky, which English speakers came to know as the Beer Barrel Polka or Roll out the Barrel.
By comparison, today only few people in the Czech Republic can remember similar songs just as popular during World War I. But one exception was Vítězná Madelon or La Medelon, a French song which also lit a spark in more than one Czech heart. It tells a story about soldiers flirting with a lovely young waitress in a country tavern.
In Czechoslovakia, the Czech version resonated greatly, thanks a successful translation by the writer, journalist and singer Eduard Bass. He is well-known even today as the author of the novels Klabzuba's Eleven and Circus Humberto. La Madelon later found itself in the first post-war program of the Prague cabaret the Red Seven.
On February 6th, the Czechoslovak Red Cross was founded. On February 25th, at the secret meeting of the National Assembly, the Czechoslovak crown was enacted as the currency of the new republic. On July 8th, President Tomas Garrique Masaryk appointed a new government. The premier was Vlastimil Tusar.
From there it spread quickly, and within the post-war enthusiasm it became the most popular post-war song even in Czechoslovakia.
Its vibrant melody no doubt added to its significant appeal and hearing the song we can recall the enthusiasm and euphoria that many Czechs - as free citizens of a new independent state – must have experienced 99 years ago.
This most famous song from the end of the World War I is sung to us by Rudolf Pellar along with piano accompanist Milan Jira.
Ch. Borel-Clerc/Eduard Bass: Vítězná Madelon
Each Sunday, participants will be able to vote in our new series Hit of the Century, covering 100 years of music in Czechoslovakia and the Czech Republic. Each episode will feature five hit songs, by decade, beginning with 1918 – 1928. After 100 songs are broadcast, two semi-finals will decide the top hits from the period of 1918 – 1968 and from 1968 – 2018.
Six songs will reach the final, in which listeners will choose a single winner: the most popular Czech song of the century,
Ten participants will receive CDs of the most successful songs recorded in a new musical arrangement on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the founding of Czechoslovakia in October of 1918.