- World Of Music - Rock-pop history
NOVAKOVIĆ - THE LEGEND
LOLA NOVAKOVIĆ, THE LEGEND
"We haven't heard such a good singer yet, the singer
who forced us to remember phrases from far away:
Oh, what a Moon, Oh what a Sea, OH, WHAT A LOLA! We would applaud for
anything Lola would sing..." Japanese reporter wrote in 1963. That was
true. She could sing a melody that you could not possibly sing alone... or
children song. Or even a weather report!
Doesn't really matter! She was adored for her outstanding voice and for her
The story of Lola Novaković, the legendary singer from Yugoslavia,
who was on top in the sixties and also in the seventies, has not been available
far in English language on internet.
So, here it is, written by Vesta Vanell, also the author of Lola's
biography in Croatian language.
Lola Novaković was born in Belgrade as Zorana Novaković in
1935 in the sign of Taurus. She was the third child in the family. At home
she was called Lola from her early age, as she had a good sense of humor. In
Serbia, it is a habit that everybody, male or female, with such
qualities, gets Lola as a nick name. Later on, when she became famous, she
officially changed her name to Lola.
She spent her childhood in the centre of Belgrade near a big
park, called Tasmajdan. She liked to play like any other child, but two things
were different: First, she was very sympathetic towards the animals. From
her very early age she kept rescuing them, bringing them home and calling the
vet to help and
cure them. The vet lived, very usefully, next door. So her home was always
full of cats and dogs, birds and butterflies... all animals were there which
were damaged and needed help.
Second, everyone noticed that she had got an amazing voice.
When she went to school, she was a member of the school children’s choir.
But very soon she was told off, because her voice was so strong that other
children could not be heard! Actually she was not allowed to sing in the choir.
Fortunately, she had good support at home. When she was nine
she became a member of the children’s theatre Rodino Pozoriste in Belgrade.
There she was
singing, acting and dancing... While performing for children, she imagined
herself as an actress on a big stage in front of adult audience...
Her name was first mentioned in a newspaper in the year 1944, when she participated
in a charity programme, where they were collecting money for a little boy,
whose coat was stolen. It was during the Second world war...
In the article it was written that little girl from the children's theatre,
Zorana Novaković, had a phenomenal voice.
...OVER THE CHESS TABLE...
While she was in grammar school she was a member of the Cultural and Art Association
Branko Krsmanovic, too. There was a choir there, but because she was not born
to sing in choirs, she preferred to play chess there! At that time she attended
Music school, as well, studying solo singing.
Her music career began at the chess table! One day while she
was quietly singing September song in between the two moves, one student came
to her. She knew
him, Rade Milivojević was a member of the student’s music group. "Would
you like to sing with us on New Year's Eve? We don't have a girl singer," he
surprised her. Lola found herself in a very demanding situation: she was aware
know any songs to sing by heart and she had never tried to sing in a microphone.
On the other hand, her family was in a very difficult situation at that time
and she was the only one who earned money. She had to stop attending both,
Grammar school and Music school, and began to work in the hospital to help
The amount of money she was offered for singing was amazing for her... and
thinking of her family she finally agreed. She learned a few songs with the
help of all the members of this Student music group. Finally she traveled
with them to Smederevo to sing in microphone -
for the first time in her life. It was the New Year’s Eve 1952 / 1953.
She said it was not good at all, nobody noticed her, the audience was so loud!
And she was dying of fear.
After that evening she wasn't going to sing anymore.
But the students got another idea: they felt there was something more in this
strong, young voice and convinced her to leave her job and joined them.
So, she finally did. She began to sing on the stage of hotel Bristol in Belgrade.
Stages at hotels and some restaurants were the only places for jazz musicians
at that time. She was really among pioneers in popular music, cutting a way
for the others to come after...
It was not easy to learn new songs at that time. They didn't have gramophones
or anything with recorded music. The only helper was radio. So she was listening
to the radio in the mornings, trying to write down lyrics of the new songs
and singing along... She had a very good ear so she learned music very fast,
but had problems with lyrics, all in foreign languages.
Soon she became well known in Belgrade and a lot of people
were coming to listen to the girl with a dark long romantic hair, fascinating
eyes and incredible voice. She was singing without any effort, like playing
She got big success and had to repeat songs over and over again. Once she was
asked to sing the song Yellow Rose of Texas for seven times! When reporters
asked her later, if this was true, she answered:
"Yes, the audience wanted me to learn the lyrics of the song by heart, finally,
as I have always got a microphone in one hand and the paper with lyrics in
The songs she sang were also: "Jesabel", "Pommes et poires", "September Song",
"Vaia Con Dios", "Che sara sara"... and some others. She
was singing beautifully, but for years nobody had helped her to make a step
further, until... one day in the early spring in the year 1957...
In those days a manager from Leipzig (East Germany at that
time) came to Belgrade to invite some musicians and singers to perform in the
famous "Capitol Hall"
in Leipzig during the fair there. Everything was arranged with Big Jazz Orchestra
and conductor Vojislav Simić, as well as with the singer Ivo
But he could not find a girl singer. In Radio Belgrade they simply didn't have
anyone good enough to represent this radio abroad.
It happened that in those days a well known jazz singer Stjepan
Stanić Jimmy from Zagreb came to Belgrade, met Lola and suggested her to
come and sing with
him at "Stambol kapija", where people from abroad were coming to listen to
jazz music. And it happened that right in those days the brand new music editor
of Radio Belgrade, Josip Kalčić visited the place together with the German
When they heard Lola sing, they immediately decided: she will to go to Leipzig!
But, things were not so easy as it looked like: Lola could
not travel abroad, as
she was not a member of the radio station.
People from Radio Belgrade found themselves ashamed... They were forced
to organize the audition for young singers in 24 hours, inviting Lola, of course,
first place. After she had passed the audition and became a member of Radio
Belgrade, she was told she had to go to Leipzig!
So Lola represented Radio Belgrade abroad in spite of the fact that this
same radio station hadn't transmitted any of her songs...! ...
They actually ignored her for a long time and finally... they had to acknowledge
her in front of a German manager! Lola traveled together with big famous
orchestra and a big star, Ivo Robić, to Leipzig in March 1957.
Only a few songs that she sang in Leipzig were enough that
German Record Company Decca offered her to record her first record there. With
big jazz orchestra
she recorded two songs, "Babalu" in Spanish language and "Alice
The musicians and singers from Yugoslavia got big success in the famous "Capitol
Hall" in Leipzig and were invited to Berlin. There Lola and Ivo Robić
recorded some German songs for the radio station and appeared on TV.
The echo of musicians and singers from Yugoslavia spread like a fire through
Eastern Europe and each country wanted to have them. They accepted only one
invitation, to Budapest, Hungary. They gave two concerts in "Erkel Opera" with
2600 seats and still a lot of people were left without tickets.
In Nepakarat newspaper it was written: "The biggest success had Lola Novaković,
the singer with an outstanding voice and lovely performance.... because of
long applause she could not leave the
stage, people were throwing flowers, gloves, bags... whatever they had,
After such a success, Lola became a respected member of Radio
Belgrade. But, firmly grounded, she said: " The applause were amazing,
but they didn't convince me I reached the top. ... I know I still have to work
So, she began to study solo singing at the Belgrade Music Academy. Music
experts predicted her a very successful opera career, as her dramatic soprano
very suitable for classical training.
After two years, she finished her training, as she decided not to become
an opera singer.
While studying, she was also performing, mainly abroad. She
was invited many times to Hungary and to other Eastern European countries.
She sang at the festival "Jazz au Champs Elysees" in Paris and in Basle, where
she conquered hearts with her interpretation of the very well known song "Tenderly"
and introducing a hit from Belgrade, the song "Kada dođe dan" When the day
arrives). Her admirer was also the conductor and piano player Charles Dueval.
In Budapest she recorded four songs for Qualiton, three of them in Spanish
language. Among them a very popular love song "La Storia du un Amor" (The story
of love). She was actually so good in singing Spanish songs, as if she was
born in Spain...
THE CHALLENGE, CALLED BEIRUT...
Then she suddenly accepted the invitation to sing in Beirut.
Her friends from the students time, now called Adriatic 5, were playing in
a Night Club "Lido"
in Beirut. They called her to come and join them. She went there for three
months but stayed in the East for a year and a half, also regularly performing
in Radio and TV Beirut.
She was also touring several countries, Lebanon, Israel, Egypt, Iran, Iraq,
Right from the beginning she had to clear the situation with the owner of the
Night Club "Lido": what were her duties there, because she was expected
to do both, to sing and to please the rich guests...
She had to ask police and the Embassy for help. But soon the problem was solved
and she got a special driver from police to drive her around and look after
her. When she returned home, people in her home land didn't receive her with
open hearts and hands. They even believed she lost her voice! Her voice truly
had been changing all the time, but the experts agreed her voice got its expected
color in that time, in 1960.
Lola knew very well what she was capable of doing and decided
to stop the rumors with giving her first solo concert. This was the first
ever done in Yugoslavia by any Yugoslav singer. The biggest concert hall in
Belgrade was sold out in a few hours. So Lola had to give two solo concerts
and her success was enormous. She brought with her the song "Mustafa",
which was already a hit in some countries.
Half of Belgrade were singing this song after her two concerts. And Yugoslav
newspapers wrote that she was the best and the most complete singer and performer
in the whole Yugoslavia.
THE WINNER STARTED...
Right at the beginning of 1961 first in a row was festival
in Zagreb. She didn't want to miss it!
It was not a big surprise that she won, singing a very beautiful song, "Svitanje"
(The Dawning) in her great style.
After that success she was invited to participate in the first Yugoslav Competition
for the song, which represented Yugoslavia in Eurosong Contest 1961 in Cannes.
She won the second position, presenting beautifully song "Plave daljine"
In that time she was singing songs which were written specially
for her. And her interpretations were so good that hardly anybody dared to
sing those songs
Next thing was the competition for the best singer in Yugoslavia, called
"Golden Microphone", that happened in Belgrade. Probably you won't be surprised
that she got the first one, and after her two more women singers and - no men.
Lola sang in all festivals that year: beside Zagreb, also
in Belgrade and in Opatija. At this last one she sang two songs which were
u gradu ko zna kom" (Once in a town who knows which) and "Voljela bih da me
voliš" (I'd love you to love me).
And what were the following years hiding for her?
In the beginning of 1962 she performed two songs at the famous Zagreb festival.
She became the absolute winner of the festival, which lasted for four days.
The legendary song "Ti nisi došao" (You didn't arrive) was written specially
for her by very young composer Alfons Vučer. Lola put all her feelings in
this little song, crying while she was singing it and the result was her
biggest success ever in any festival in Yugoslavia.
She kept coming on the stage for - God knows how long - to say thank you
to the audience, which got her the longest possible applause she had ever
experienced ... The audience actually didn't allow the programme to continue.
Six hours later, so long was the final evening, Lola and the song "Ti nisi
declared as the absolute winners of that festival. The song "Ti nisi došao"
was her first golden record and was chosen as the song of the year 1962.
At the same time, the song was a model, where everything came together perfectly
and you couldn't add or remove anything. After such a success, she became the
most adored woman singer in whole Yugoslavia.
Soon after that festival in Zagreb there was a competition
for the song which later represented Yugoslavia in Eurosong Contest 1962 in
Luxembourg. It happened
in TV studio in Zagreb.
Lola got few songs to sing. One of them was the song "Ne pali svetlo u sumrak"
(Don't turn on the light in a twilight), composed by young Slovenian composer
She didn't expect to win at all. After the voting one reporter was faster in
calculating than others, so he ran to Lola to tell her, she won with "Ne pali
svetlo u sumrak"... But she didn't believe him! She was very surprised
when finally she was asked to perform the song once again - as a winner!
Soon after that, she got the main woman part in the movie
"Šeki snima, pazi se", got married, and a week or two later she had
to travel to Luxemburg to
represent her homeland in Eurosong Contest 1962.
Before she left, the representatives of JRT / Yugoslav Radio Television Association
warned her more seriously than as a joke: "Don't dare to come back tomorrow
as a winner!"
The truth was, Yugoslavia didn't have money to organize such a big event...
When composer Joze Privšek and Lola appeared in Luxemburg, nobody recognized
At the beginning, Claudio Villa, who represented Italy that year, thought that
Lola was the girl who will help with counting the points!
Later on, he was the first to congratulate her for her singing and performing.
When Lola appeared on the stage of the concert hall at rehearsal,
she got sympathy already, as she never played someone else, but was herself
honestly. She had a certain karisma. And when she began to sing, all the people
around and the whole orchestra were amazed. They also were very enthusiastic
about both, the song and the arrangement, masterpieces of Joze Privšek. He
was at that time by far the youngest composer and conductor at this Contest.
In spite of such big interest for the song, Lola and Privšek didn't win but
got fourth position, what was a very big success and for long time the best
of what Yugoslavia reached in many years... After this appearance in Europe,
she became even more popular in Yugoslavia. All her recordings, new and older
were sold out.
But "Ne pali svetlo u sumrak" was not among them. This song has never been
put on a record. ...
In Luxemburg Lola got some very attractive offers for concerts
and tours in Europe. But she didn't want to agree on anything. Only - there
was one little man from Japan, from His Master’s Voice. He insisted, he wanted
her to come to Japan. Lola didn't believe he really meant this and
finally said to him she will think about the strange offer.
There were two more festivals in 1962 in Yugoslavia which
we have to mention. The first one was so called "Belgrade's Springtime 1962".
That year she sang
two very beautiful and very different songs: "Neko ko šapče" (Somebody's whispering)
and "Dođi, planina te zove" (Come, the mountain is calling you). Both were
written for Lola and she sang them in a great style. The next (and last for
many years) festival in which she appeared, was "Opatija 1962". Lola decided
not to perform at the festivals any longer
reasons. She didn't agree with the fact that the winner was known in advance!
Anyway, she was officially invited to Japan. She was going
to stay in that exotic country for at least half a year - but ...
It was May 1963, when she left for Japan. Her tour was prepared on a high professional
level. Whole Tokyo was covered with her big posters... She had such a
publicity as never before. There was big interest for her concerts every where,
Kyoto, Nagoya, Nagasaki... because she was coming from the exotic land!
She was even asked to sing for the imperator what was a rare honor.
Even though she was asked to stay longer, she decided to return
home after three months of non-stop working. She was invited to Singapore,
Hawaii and to
USA , but she simply wanted to return home for personal reasons. She brought
with her the newspapers from Japan, containing the most beautiful and most
poetical articles ever written about her and her singing.
She recorded a lot of songs at that time and didn't perform
at the festivals in Yugoslavia for some years. In hot summer, July 1964, she
was touring Bulgaria, when Dušan Vidak, composer from Belgrade, called her
and said, she had to travel to Rome! Actually, his song "Ulica četiri fontane"
(The Street of Four Fountains) was accepted at the International Festival
in Rome. The composer wrote the song
for her, so she had to travel now to Rome to perform it. Lola even haven't
had time enough to learn the song, when she found herself in Rome, on a stage
at the famous Saint Peter's Square, rehearsing the song with a big orchestra
behind her, conducted by famous Nello Seghurini.
She was the last one who expected to win, as she heard the winner was known
in advance... She calmed down and said to herself she didn't come to Rome
to win, but she will do her best anyway.
Something happened that nobody had expected... Lola
and the song "Ulica četiri fontane" were absolute winners at the International
Roma Canta 1964.
She got best notes for both, her singing and performing. The song, itself,
got the best note, too. Big surprise? ... Not really, as she won the hearts
of everybody on the stage, in the audience, even reporters there, only by appearing
on the stage! When
she began to sing the beautiful and quite unusual chanson in her own way, the
star was born in front of a big audience of six thousand people.
After such a triumph under the Italian sky, reporters wrote
about her in superlatives. It was written that Italian people had to learn
that also others could sing
about fountains, and, even more - in a way, it seemed Italians had never sung
about them, really. She was considered to sing like the best French chanson
singer and was a revelation for thousands of tourists there. She got invitation
to sing at the famous Italian "San Remo Festival". But she never appeared there
because of money...
Lola decided to take a train to get home. She got two "golden"
cubs as rewards, one cub for her and one for the composer.
They were quite big, so she put them beside her on a seat. People were asking
her where did she get them. And Lola, being Lola - kept answering very seriously:
"At the athletics meeting".
It was still a long hot summer when Lola performed, together
with other best singers from Balkan region at the big concert, called "Balkaniada
of Songs and
Friendship 1964". It happened at the biggest sport stadium in Belgrade. She
sang, among other songs, also her biggest success abroad, the song "Ulica četiri
fontane". It was good though, as it just happened that the live recording of
this song from "Balkaniada" remained the only document of this song. The studio
recording has never been done.
Italian conductor Nello Seghurini came to Belgrade to conduct Symphonic orchestra.
And his wish was that Lola joined them, singing operetta songs. She agreed
and sang for the first and last time such a repertoire. This was a big success
for both of them and her audience was amazed.
At that time Lola was divorced already, and decided to dedicate
her life completely to music and performing.
She appeared on TV programme nearly each day, sometimes even twice per day!
In 1963/64 and 1965 she acted and sang in the most popular children's programme
on TV Belgrade, "Na slovo na slovo"... In that way she captured hearts of
children, as well as those of grand-mothers and grand-fathers. So she got all
Everybody simply adored her.
She recorded a lot of songs from European pop scene, mostly
Italian, French and Spanish. People liked her interpretations of well known
songs so much that
her records were always sold out, bringing her golden awards.
There were songs like Italian "Tišina" (Il Silenzio) Greek song "Mama, mama"
(composer Hadjidakis), Mexican song "Kap veselja" (Gorason appasionato) -
this record was golden twice! ... Then her master interpretation of French
chanson "Jedna godina ljubavi" (Ces't irreparable)... and many others.
Though dedicating herself to music, she got some challenges
on the way...
On the top of her career she declared a few times she would stop singing...
After she married for the second time in Autumn of 1966, she changed her surname
to Jovanović and very soon she withdrew herself completely. She wanted to have
some family life, at last.
Shock for her audience! The battle between Lola and her audience began. Who
The audience, of course!
Next Summer, as Lola Jovanović, she joined the first touring
summer festival that ever happened in Yugoslavia, called "The Summer Song 1967".
With the song
"Marike" she uplifted people all over Yugoslavia.
Then she "vanished" once again. People were asking: Is it now definite?
No, after a longer pause, she recorded four songs for her new record. The
most interesting was the Italian song "Vi niste znali" (Voi non sapete).
Then, again nothing... Till the next Summer when she appeared
at the summer touring festival, singing the song "Posle mene" (After me), bringing
among people all over Yugoslavia.
Then she vanished... reporters called her Fenix... In twenty years of her
singing career she vanished so many times and each time came back again, as
had happened, that she would have felt comfortable under the wings of this
Actually her come back as a victor is considered to be the
She appeared at two festivals in Belgrade, winning twice. It is interesting
that at the festival "Belgrade's Spring 1970" she sang the song "Neko
čeka na mene" (Somebody's waiting for me) which reminded of her successful
recordings from the sixties - and, actually it was the song from that time,
waiting for Lola to change her mind and appear at this festival, again!
Then at the second part of that festival, called "Starogradske pesmi" (The
songs, inspired by old days), she was the winner with the song "Moje
(My Crazy Heart) when her interpretation was stunning.
At the end of the same year she performed also at the "Army
Festival" in Belgrade. Young soldiers who were choosing their favorite
song, voted for Lola, singing
the song with symbolic title "Vrati se" (Let you return).
And she did return!
Meanwhile, her marriage fell apart and after the divorce
in the early spring of 1971 she promised herself she would NEVER ever allow
a man in her life again!
But remember: never say never! God had a different plan for her.
At the festival "Belgrade's Spring 1971" she sang the song,
simply called "Ljubi me" (Love me) in alternation with young and then unknown
This song seemed to have a fatal energy in it, as they fell in love. The song
became hit soon after the festival, and the record with this song was selling
like no other.
The news were so attractive, the picture of both singers appeared in front
pages of nearly all newspapers in Serbia.
Lola and Dragan married during the Summer festival "The Summer Song 1971".
Actually, this was something reporters would not accept, because Dragan was
younger than she was and reporters could not believe both singers really fell
in love. They considered it was an excellent trick to attract attention...
Considering their private life was their private life, they didn't want to
deal with reporters any longer. So, it seemed they didn't perform but they
did 250 to 300 concerts per year!
They lived together for nearly 30 years.
Lola won many festivals from that year 1971 on.
She's got a lot of golden liras, golden records, golden cubs... and all
Among other songs we have to mention the winner of the "Army Festival" in 1973
"Misli na mene" (Think about me). With this song Lola got a lot of air play
and it was for years a very popular song. With the song "Znam zašto živim"
(I know why I live) Lola won festival "Your Song of the Season" in Sarajevo
She got her biggest awards in 1977. She was awarded by the
title "Respected artist on Serbia Republic level" and she got "The Big award"
from the Yugoslav
Estrada Association. This was the most she could get in that time.
her career in 1985. Now she lives in Belgrade in her house with the garden,
together with her animals she loves. From my point of view, Lola Novaković
has been the brightest star from Yugoslavia
- and she still is.
She has got an incredible voice that she mastered to perfection.
Beside all of this, God gave her another gift: her interpretations of love
songs were real
dramas, as she put so much emotions in them. On the other hand, of course,
singing joyful songs... she really was able to get on feet the whole theatre,
singing along with her.
I am aware of a great privilege to have had a lot of opportunities
of listening her singing live, as well as listening her incredible recordings
records and watching her performing in numerous TV programmes over the years.
Masters singers have always been the best singing live. Lola was...
Vesta Vanell, 31. January 2010
Vesta Vannell, Rodine, Bela Krajina, Slovenia, 2009