Djordje Balasevic Biography
Balašević was born to a Serbian father, Jovan Balašević, and to Veronika Dolenec, half Hungarian, half Croatian from a village near Koprivnica, Croatia. He has a sister, Jasna. His grandfather's surname was Balašev, but in 1941 the grandfather changed it to Balašević in order to avoid magyarization.
The younger Balašević grew up in Jovana Cvijića street in Novi Sad, in the same house where he currently lives with his three children and his wife Olivera (born Savić in Zrenjanin on April 29, 1959). He started writing poetry in primary school. He left high school in the third year (because, in his words, he hated subjects like mathematics, physics and chemistry) but managed to get a high school diploma as part-time student and passed the preliminary exam for the university study of geography. He never graduated from the university, but instead joined the band Žetva ("Harvest") in 1977.
Žetva and Rani Mraz
After Balašević joined the group, Žetva recorded a tango hit single "U razdeljak te ljubim", which was sold in more than 180,000 copies, a huge success by Yugoslav standards. Another song from that period "Gospojice ala ste mi šik" was less successful, although its lyrics, similarly like in the hit single "U razdeljak te ljubim", also played with the Austro-Hungarian cultural legacy of his native Vojvodina.
In 1978 he left Žetva and together with Verica Todorović formed band Rani Mraz ("Early Frost"). The band had its début at music festival Opatija '78 with the song "Moja prva ljubav" ("My First Love"). The same year former Suncokret members Biljana Krstić and Bora Đorđević joined the band, and together they recorded "Računajte na nas" ("Count on Us") (written by Balašević), a song celebrating the young generation's adoption of the communist revolution. The song became popular with both the communist authorities and the people, making it a kind of an anthem for generations to come.
After just few months of cooperation, Verica Todorović and Bora Đorđević left the band (Đorđević forming his famous hard rock band Riblja Čorba), so Biljana Krstić and Balašević recorded Rani Mraz's first album Mojoj mami umesto maturske slike u izlogu ("To my Mother instead of Prom Photo in the Shop-Window") on their own.
At the Split '79. music festival Balašević won the first prize with the single "Panonski mornar" ("Pannonian Sailor"). A few months later he sold out Belgrade's Dom Sindikata Hall eight times in a row and a new star was born. In 1980 he served in the Yugoslav army in Zagreb and Požarevac where he had a role in the TV show Vojnici, but also found time to write song "Zbog tebe" for Zdravko Čolić and lyrics for several songs recorded on Srebrna Krila album Sreo sam ljubav iz prve pjesme.
By the end of 1980 Rani Mraz released their second and final album with a symbolic title Odlazi cirkus ("The Circus Is Leaving") and the band dissolved shortly afterwards. The album reaffirmed Balašević's status and delivered some unforgettable songs, one of them being "Priča o Vasi Ladačkom" ("Story of Vasa Ladački") which went on to become one of Balašević's signature songs.
Early solo career
He started his solo career in 1982 with the album Pub ("Jack") which was well received. Shortly after he had a role in TV series Pop Ćira i pop Spira recorded after Stevan Sremac's novel of the same title. In the following 1982 / 1983 tour he sold out Belgrade's Sava Center hall for the first time. His Sava Center concerts would become his trademark in years to follow. The next two albums Celovečernji The Kid ("Wholeevening The Kid"), released in 1983 and 003, released in 1985 followed the same path of success and Balašević established himself as respectable singer-songwriter.
The next blue album, Bezdan ("Abyss"), released in 1986, was a milestone in his career. The record was produced by Đorđe Petrović and arrangement was done by Aleksandar Dujin. Those two would be the key associates of Balašević for the next 20 years and substantially influence his work. They became the backbone of Balašević supporting band The Unfuckables (although this is just a nickname, as he performs under his own name and the support band is never billed) and part of his stage appearance.
The next album was his first live album U tvojim molitvama - Balade ("In Your Prayers - Ballads"). The album was recorded on his concerts in Zetra hall in Sarajevo, Ledena dvorana and Šalata in Zagreb, Sava Centar in Belgrade and Studio M in Novi Sad in 1986 and 1987. Apart from his well-known previous songs, the album featured a previously unrecorded track "Samo da rata ne bude" ("Just Let There be no War"). The song features a large children's choir which, together with lyrics warning about the war (which indeed will start three years later), delivers a hymn of pacifists throughout then still existing SFR Yugoslavia.
The same sensation of imminent disaster predominates his next album Panta Rei released in 1988. The song "Requiem" was dedicated to late Josip Broz Tito, while satire "Soliter" caricatures Yugoslavia as a high-rise in which only façade still holds while foundations slide. The atmosphere of the album is dark and bitter.
Guitarist Elvis Stanić takes part in recording of album Tri posleratna druga ("Three Afterwar Friends") in 1989. Josip Kiki Kovač joined The Unfuckables on album Marim ja... ("I Don't Care...") released in 1991.
War years and after
As the wars of Yugoslav dissolution began, Balašević withdrew to isolation. He was forced to stop collaborating with Croatian artists such as Elvis Stanić and his tempo of one album per year was disrupted. His next album Jedan od onih života ("One of Those Lives") released in 1993 featured songs such as "Krivi smo mi" ("It's Our Fault") and "Čovek sa mesecom u očima" ("The Man with Moonlight in the Eyes") which heavily criticised and denounced the ongoing war.
After a long pause, he issued Naposletku ("After all") in 1996. The change in sentiment was obvious and would be more or less prevalent on all of his albums up to date (as of 2005). Naposletku was mostly folk rock-oriented. Nearly all instruments on this album are acoustic, the violin becomes dominant and woodwind instruments are heavily used.
During the 1990s Balašević engaged in broad criticism of the current political situation in Serbia, Slobodan Milošević and Socialist Party of Serbia. Devedesete ("Nineties"), released in 2000, was his most politically involved album. Balašević openly made fun of Milošević with the song "Legenda o Gedi Gluperdi" ("Legend of Geda the Stupid"), criticized police officers who defended the corrupt system by confronting demonstrating youth in "Plava balada" ("The Blue Ballad"), looked back to the 1990s with disgust in the title song "Devedesete", supplied young demonstrators with an anthem "Živeti slobodno" ("To Live Freely"), reaching out to his lost friends in Croatia and Bosnia with "Stih na asfaltu" ("A Verse on the Asphalt") and "Sevdalinka", but still preserving patriotism with "Dok gori nebo nad Novim Sadom" ("While the Sky over Novi Sad is Burning"), a song about the 1999 NATO bombing of Novi Sad. This album clearly marked the atmosphere in Serbia in the year when Slobodan Milošević lost power.
After this open engagement in politics, he returned to romance. The album Dnevnik starog momka ("Diary of an Old Bachelor") released in 2001 comprises 12 songs, each having a female name as its title, and each addressing a different girl. Balašević repeatedly stated that the girls and songs are pure fiction, and the song titles form the acrostic "Olja je najbolja" ("Olja is the Best"), Olja being the nickname of his wife Olivera Balašević.
His latest album Rani mraz released in 2004 follows the folk rock style developed on Naposletku.