Helena VondráčkováView in iTunes
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One of the Czech Republic's most popular pop singers, Helena Vondrácková has managed to sustain a career for five decades -- no mean feat -- but also has been able to maintain her popularity in the face of the momentous change, both culturally and socially, that occurred with the fall of the Soviet Union and the subsequent dissolution of the former Czechoslovakia at the beginning of the 1990s. Born in Prague on June 24, 1947, Helena first explored music as a child, taking piano lessons at an early age. Her first success in the music world occurred in 1964 when she won a national talent show, and shortly afterwards released the single "Cervena Reka" (Red River Valley). From there, she managed to win more and more plaudits for her talents, and graduated from school. The first of the many world travels that Vondrácková's talent would bring her came when she was chosen to represent Czechoslovakia at a festival in Rio de Janeiro in 1967. In 1969, Vondrácková released her first album, Ruze Kvetou Dal, a collection of her early singles from the years 1964-1969. In 1971 she starred in her first headlining concert, Helena 71, and the following year toured the Soviet Union and Japan. While in Japan, Helena recorded her first foreign-language album, Isle of Helena, and spent the majority of the decade touring the world, visiting countries in Europe, Asia, and North and South America. She began the '80s much like she spent the '70s, on tour -- this time in Canada, and in 1984 hosted her first television show, Sejdeme Se Na Vysluni. As the '80s gave way to the '90s, and all of Europe was in the throes of change, she reached the milestone of selling a million albums, performed in the Czech concert Helena 90, and took on the role of Fantine in Les Miserables. In 1993, Vondrácková released two Broadway-themed musical albums, one in Czech and one in English, each entitled The Broadway Album. The multilingual vocalist modernized her sound for 2000's Vodopad, and scored a number one hit. Over the course of the first decade of the new century, Vondrácková continued to release records to healthy critical and commercial reaction, as well as performing in a number of well-received concerts. Vondrácková's extensive career got the box set treatment in 2005 with the four-CD set The Golden Collection seeing release that year, as well as publication of her memoir, entitled I Remember and I Don't Regret Anything. Vondrácková continued to maintain a high profile, appearing in the Slovak version of the television talent reality show Dancing with the Stars in 2006, and a year later appearing in the Polish version. A 2007 compilation, Jsem Jaka Jsem, was then released, and managed a Top Ten placement in the Czech charts. ~ Chris True