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Zdravko Čolić

Zdravko Čolić in 2007
Background information
Also known as Čola
Born May 30, 1951 (1951-05-30) (age 58)
Sarajevo, FPR Yugoslavia
Origin Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Genres Schlager music
Occupations Singer, songwriter
Years active 1968 - present
Labels Beograd Disk, Jugoton, PGP RTB, Diskoton, Komuna, Grand Production
Associated acts Ambasadori
Korni Grupa
Website Official website

Zdravko Čolić (born May 30, 1951 in Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina, FPR Yugoslavia) is a Serbian singer popular across the entire area of former Yugoslavia. Since 1992 (when war started) he lives in Belgrade, Serbia.


Early life

Born to police administrator Vladimir and homemaker Stana Čolić, both of whom came to Sarajevo from the vicinity of Trebinje in Herzegovina, young Zdravko showed an early interest in sports. He was active as a footballer in FK Željezničar's youth system, before switching to track and field where he also excelled. At one point he was able to run a 100 meter dash in 11.3 seconds, and continually placed high at various track meets he entered (at one of them he finished just behind future star Nenad Stekić). Still, a pro sports career wasn't to be as Čolić lacked the Spartan discipline required to go on.

Zdravko attended Vladimir Perić Valter elementary school in the neighbourhood he grew up in - Grbavica. He also attended music school where he studied guitar playing. As a hobby he took part in various school recitals, and also acted in a couple of plays at Pionirsko pozoriste (Youth Theatre).

Early career


Early years

Since the youngest age Čolić also showed an interest in music. With friend Braco Isović, he played guitar at informal and impromptu park gatherings through which they became somewhat locally known as "Čola i Isa sa Grbavice". At the time Čolić was trying to emulate pop schlager music that dominated Yugoslav and Italian festivals.

His first significant public singing experience occurred in 1968 when he spent a couple of days at the Montenegrin coast for the November 29 holiday (communist Yugoslavia's republic day). Staying in the house his father owned in the coastal community of Baošići, 17-year-old Zdravko got persuaded by a friend Nedim Idrizović to enter the amateur signing competition in nearby Bijela. He won second prize singing "Lady Madonna" by The Beatles.

Encouraged by the unexpected success, soon after returning to Sarajevo, Čolić entered his first band - a group called Mladi i lijepi. That engagement didn't last long, however, because around the time he graduated gymnasium in 1969, he moved to the more established Ambasadori, a band whose two incarnations he'd end up staying with for next two and a half years.


At the time of Čolić's arrival, Ambasadori employed a strange setup: they were essentially a military cover band as all the musicians, except for bandleader Slobodan Vujović, were army recruits. Their repertoire centred around 1960s rhythm & blues (Chicago, Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett, etc.) along with obligatory Yugoslav hits of the day and years past, and finally even a few original numbers written by the bandmembers thrown into the mix. Over time, the group started getting more gig offers, which presented a problem since it's army part wasn't available for many of them and those offers had to be declined.

Seeing their opportunities limited by the strange situation, Vujović and Čolić decided to step out and form Novi ambasadori in 1970, bringing in drummer Perica Stojanović, organist Vlado Pravdić, saxophonist Lale Stefanović, and bassist Zlatko Hold. With the almost all new lineup, the band also expanded its reportoire so that in addition to R&B they now also played covers of Led Zeppelin, Blood, Sweat & Tears, Creedence Clearwater Revival, etc. For the summer of 1970, Novi ambasadori scored a month-long gig with Indexi in Dubrovnik, which was their first tour-like experience. Next step was competing at the 1971 Vaš šlager sezone annual festival in Sarajevo where they finished in 7th place with a song "Plačem za tvojim usnama", which songwriter Zdenko Runjić claimed to have composed and officially signed his name under, however, the song was a blatant rip-off of The Tremeloes' "Suddenly Alone". No one from the festival noticed this plagiarism and the band avoided the controversy. The song was even released on a 7-inch single "Plačem za tvojim usnama" / "Zapjevaj" by Beograd Disk and sold surprisingly well. The performance at Vaš šlager sezone was also significant since it was the band's first television appearance exposing them to a much larger audience. One of the people in that TV audience was Kornelije Kovač, an already influential and established figure in Yugoslav music circles, who immediately got intrigued by Čolić's "clean tenor and good stage presence".[1]

Čolić was soon offered a "bench role" with Indexi, to fill in for their singer Davorin Popović, and even performed with them a couple of times.

Korni grupa

In the meantime, during summer of 1971, Čolić finally met face to face with Kornelije Kovač who came to see Čolić play in Mostar and invited him to join his Korni grupa as replacement to their departed singer Dado Topić. Unlike Amabasadori, Korni grupa performed their own material and generally had a much more studious and serious approach to music, so Čolić immediately jumped at the opportunity.

On September 10, 1971, twenty-year-old Čolić left his hometown and moved to the capital Belgrade in order to join his new band. However, his stint with Korni grupa ultimately proved to be very short and largely unsuccessful as he never meshed well enough with the rest of the group musically, finding it hard to fit into their progressive rock style. He recorded three tracks with them, "Kukavica, "Gospa Mica gazdarica", and "Pogledaj u nebo", all of which got released on the 7-inch single by PGP RTB. Track "Gospa Mica gazdarica" managed to create minor controversy due to the slightly risque lyrics written from the perspective of a young man imploring his older female landlord to allow him into her bed - a nod to Čolić's life at the time since he was living away from home in sublet apartments. Due to numerous complaints, the song got taken off radio playlists.

Soon, however, Čolić and Kovač agreed that it would be better for Zdravko to go solo. Only six months upon his arrival to Belgrade, he returned to Sarajevo determined to give solo career a try.

Solo career

Early activity: Schlager festivals

On April 15, 1972 Čolić's first solo move was taking part in the Vaš šlager sezone competitive festival in Sarajevo. He won the third audience prize as well as the interpretation award with Kemal Monteno-written song "Sinoć nisi bila tu" that was originally meant to be sung by Josipa Lisac who opted out at the last moment.

Right away, under Kovač's guidance Čolić managed to establish a fair amount of prominence as a solo act - and on May 20, 1972 the two appeared as guests on the very popular TV Belgrade variety show Obraz uz obraz hosted by Milena Dravić and Dragan Nikolić. The same year, Čolić made further appearances at the Split festival (with song "Stara pjesma"), Priština festival, and Skopje Festival (with song "Moj bol"), before embarking on a tour of Soviet Union together with Indexi, Bisera Veletanlić, Sabahudin Kurt, and Sabina Varešanović.

Eurovision and more festivals

Then came the first big break that launched him on the road to stardom. By winning at the Opatija festival with song "Gori vatra" written by Kemal Monteno, Čolić got to represent SFR Yugoslavia at the 1973 Eurovision Song Contest on April 7, 1973 in Luxembourg. The song placed poorly, but became a massive hit at home.

Riding the wave of exposure Eurovision appearance afforded him, Čolić continued entering competitive festivals throughout SFR Yugoslavia over the next two years with plenty of success. At Hit parada festival in Belgrade on November 23, 1974, he won with the song "Ona spava", composed and written by Kornelije Kovač. Next year, 1975, Čolić bagged a few more festival wins with Kovač's songs - Beogradsko proleće with "April u Beogradu", and Vaš šlager sezone with "Zvao sam je Emili". Other songs he performed at various festivals in those years were "Bling blinge bling" (1973 Vaš šlager sezone), "Ljubav je samo riječ" (1974 Beogradsko proleće, composed by Vojkan Borisavljević), and "Zelena si rijeka bila" (1974 Vaš šlager sezone, composed by Kemal Monteno).

Around the same time he also signed a deal with the German arm of WEA record label and did two singles for that market. German producers were of the opinion that his name is too difficult to pronounce for their consumers so they marketed him as Dravco. Soon, however, Čolić decided not to pursue his options in that country further mostly because he was unwilling to move to Germany.

Debut album

His first solo album was Ti i ja (You and I) released in 1975 by Jugoton. Closely overseen by Kornelije Kovač, the album brought Čolić more hits like "Vagabund", "Igraš se vatrom", and "Loše vino" (written by Arsen Dedić and Goran Bregović). Cover sleeve was done by Dragan S. Stefanović, another collaborator who would remain with Čolić for years to come. Čolić's image especially appealed to girls and women, something that would remain a staple of his entire career. The same year, cashing in on his sudden popularity upswing, PGP RTB released a compilation of his festival singles under the name Zdravko Čolić.

Despite, achieving great prominence already, Čolić continued appearing at the occasional festival such as the Zagreb one in 1976 where surprisingly he finished in fourth place singing "Ti si bila, uvijek bila". At the end of that year he went on a Yugoslavia-wide tour with Indexi. After the Belgrade concert, the measure of his sudden fame was on public display during autograph-signing at the Jugoton store as the cordon of girls rushed the store, breaking window glass in attempt to get closer to him.

Next year, 1977, he did the festival circuit for the last time. First in Zagreb with "Živiš u oblacima" followed by an appearance at the Festival of Patriotic Songs also in Zagreb where he performed "Druže Tito mi ti se kunemo". That song was soon released on a 7-inch single record and sold in 300,000 copies.

Mass popularity

His second album, Ako priđeš bliže (If You Come Closer), released later that year was even more successful, creating mass hysteria among girls. The copies were literally flying off the shelves as 50,000 sold in first two weeks alone. The album sprouted some of his best known and liked songs such as "Glavo luda", "Zagrli me", "Juče još", "Pjevam danju, pjevam noću", "Jedna zima s Kristinom", and "Produži dalje".

On April 1, 1978, he started an ambitious tour of SFR Yugoslavia with Lokice dance group in support of the album that had already sold 150,000 copies. His image and performing style were slightly altered as under Lokica Stefanović's guidance, he started to dance and move on stage, becoming in a way Yugoslavia's equivalent to then globally popular John Travolta. Čolić also started to play the guitar occasionally on stage. Putujući zemljotres (Traveling Earthquake Tour) produced and organized by Maksa Ćatović moved all over the country, soon becoming a phenomenon the likes of which the country had not seen before. The scenes of screaming girls rushing the stage were repeated in city after city. The tour's climax took place in Belgrade at Red Star FC stadium on September 5, 1978 with 70,000 people in attendance despite the fact that Zdravko already played two sold out shows in Belgrade a few months earlier on April 4 and April 8 at Hala Pionir. Supporting Čolić on stage that night were Chris Nicholls on keyboards and Dado Topić on bass guitar with old favourites Kornelije Kovač, Arsen Dedić, Kemal Monteno, Josip Boček, Trio Strune and RTV Belgrade singing quintet appearing as guests. Zdravko and the massive tour essentially became a cultural phenomenon transcending musical boundaries such that in the lead up to the big Belgrade concert journalist Dušan Savković and film director Jovan Ristić decided to make a movie about Čolić. Savković wrote a rudimentary screenplay, but the movie ended up being a 90-minute feature documentary titled Pjevam danju, pjevam noću that follows Čolić from Belgrade concert onwards and looks back on his career up to that point. Two days after the Belgrade concert, Čolić was in his hometown Sarajevo at Koševo Stadium for the tour's grand finale, however the rain interrupted much of the concert and the whole thing turned out to be a little anticlimactic. By the end of its promotion cycle, the album sold more than 700,000 copies and with later re-releases during the 1990s went over the million mark.

Čolić also got the attention of Ziggy Loch, director of German WEA, who after watching the Belgrade concert immediately wanted to renew his contract. Singles with songs "Jedina" and "Zagrli me" were released for the German market as well as the disco single "I'm Not a Robot Man" / "Light Me". However, Zdravko refused to move to Germany for the second time, and instead on November 14, 1978 went to serve the mandatory Yugoslav Army stint. Twenty seven years of age at the time, Čolić was assigned to a unit in Valjevo, before getting transferred to Belgrade, and finally Požarevac. After serving 10 months, he got out on September 14, 1979.

Sometime after coming back into civilian population Čolić started work on his third album that came out in the Spring 1980. Titled Zbog tebe it brought more hits as Zdravko further cemented his place as the most popular pop performer in SFR Yugoslavia.

In 1983, Čolić moved from his hometown Sarajevo to Ljubljana where he started a private business with Goran Bregović through their Kamarad label. Čolić then lived in Zagreb for a couple of years before moving to Belgrade in 1990 where he resides to this day. After the war and a long pause, he embarked on a comeback, and regained much of his popularity.

Čolić holds a degree in economics from the University of Sarajevo. [2]

He is married and is the father of two daughters.



  • "Sinoć nisi bila tu" / "Tako tiho" (1972)
  • "Stara pisma" / "Pod lumbrelom" (1972)
  • "Gori vatra" / "Isti put" (1973)
  • "Blinge blinge blinge bling" / "Julija" (1973)
  • "Zelena si rijeka bila" / "Nedam ti svoju ljubav" (1973)
  • "Dome moj" / "Ljubav je samo riječ" (1974)
  • "Madre Mia / "Rock n roll himmel" (released in Germany) (1974)
  • "Alles was ich hab / "Lampenfieber" (released in Germany) (1974)
  • "Ona spava" / "Zaboravi sva proljeća" (1975)
  • "April u Beogradu" / "Svitanje" (1975)
  • "Zvao sam je Emili" / "Sonata" (1975)
  • "Ti si bila, uvijek bila" / "A sad sam ja na u redu" (1976)
  • "Ljubav ima lažni sjaj / "Balerina" (1977)
  • "Živiš u oblacima / Zašto spavaš" (1977)
  • "Loš glas / "Ne mogu biti tvoj" (1978)
  • "Light me" / "I'm not a robot man" (released in Germany) (1978)
  • "Druže Tito, mi ti se kunemo" / "Titovim putem" (1980)

Studio Albums

Live Albums

  • Belgrade Arena (2005) (live double-CD)


  • Pjesme koje volimo (The Songs We Like) (1991)
  • Prvi i posljednji (The First and the Last) (1995)
  • Zauvek (Forever)(1998)
  • Zauvek 2 (Forever 2) (1999)
  • 7X Čola Box Set (2000)
  • Balade (The Ballads)(2002)
  • The Best of Zdravko Čolić (double-CD set)(2004)
  • The best of Zdravko Čolić (2008)


  1. ^ [1]

External links

Preceded by
Tereza Kesovija
Yugoslavia in the Eurovision Song Contest
Succeeded by
Korni grupa


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