The most promising Macedonian pop star of his generation, Tose Proeski was at the zenith of his fame and influence when an automobile crash claimed his life at the age of 26. Born Todor Proeski on January 25, 1981, in Prilep, he was raised in nearby Krusevo, studying classical music and at age 12 attracting widespread attention for his performance at the annual children's song festival Zlatno Slavejce. Subsequent appearances at Stip's Makfest event vaulted Proeski to even greater renown, and in 1997 he scored his first radio hit with "Pusti Me." In collaboration with famed Macedonian composer Grigor Koprov, he wrote the smashes "Usni na Usni" and "Sonce vo Tvoite Rusi Kosi," finally releasing his debut solo LP, Nekade vo Nokta, in 1999. Serbian label BK Sound licensed international distribution rights for Proeski's 2000 sophomore effort, Sinot Bozji. With his good looks, powerful voice, and slickly commercial pop approach, he quickly emerged as a superstar throughout the Balkans, and also toured Australia (home to a growing Macedonian community) to enormous success. Proeski traveled to Athens to record his third full-length, Ako Me Poglednes vo Oci, cutting versions in both Macedonian and Serbian; the single "Beovizija" was a blockbuster hit throughout the Balkans, and the album was so extensively bootlegged that the singer was given the nickname "Kralot na Piraterite" (i.e., King of the Pirates).
Proeski celebrated his commercial triumph with a series of benefit concerts throughout Macedonia, earning the Mother Theresa Humanitarian Award for his efforts. In 2004, he was selected to represent his homeland in the annual Eurovision Song Contest via the single "Angel si Ti," coming in 14th in overall competition. That April, he released his fourth album, Den za Nas, and with the release of the charity single "This World," he was named UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador. "Krajnje Vreme," a duet with Slovenian singer Anja Rupel, preceded the 2005 release of Po Tebe, the first Proeski album issued in Slovenia and Croatia. The album proved one of the most successful Balkan albums ever, topping charts across five nations. Proeski followed the album with Bozilak, a collection of traditional Macedonian songs recorded in collaboration with a symphony orchestra. He returned to a more conventional pop formula for what proved his final studio effort, 2007's Igri bez Granici. During the early morning of October 16, 2007, Proeski was killed in a car accident on the Zagreb-Lipovac Highway outside of Nova Gradiska, Croatia. On October 17, pronounced a national day of mourning across Macedonia, he was laid to rest during an official state funeral in his hometown of Krusevo. Some observers noted that across the region he was the subject of mourning not witnessed since the 1980 death of Yugoslav statesman Marshal Josef Tito. ~ Jason Ankeny