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Marie Rottrová celebrates her 80th birthday and says: I have never studied singing

When did you know that music would be a part of your life?

I don’t think it was a specific moment. I vaguely remember standing in the kitchen in a crib by the tiled stove, my dad was playing the piano next door in the living room, and I was singing. Music has been my lifelong partner. I’ve been surrounded by her since I was a child. I went to learn to play the piano, then I sang in choirs.

The truth is that when I started to deal with music more, for example when we had a band in high school where I sang, I was determined to stay with it. I entered the We Are Looking for Talents competition, in which I advanced to the finals. Then I started recording songs on the Ostrava radio, television came, I sang a few more times in black and white live broadcasts, as well as concerts. Music is connected to my life and has gained strength very inconspicuously.

Currently, there is a great competitive environment among young singers on the music scene. Was that the case in the sixties when you started?

In Ostrava, the popular music scene was small, we were all friends. We got together, we supported each other, so I think we were competitors by logic, but we didn’t really take it that way.

Do you still play the piano?

I stopped playing five years ago because I had a broken thumb. It happened three weeks before my concert at the O2 arena in Prague and I sang on it with an orthosis. I still have a problem with that finger. Sometimes I sit down at the piano, but it’s not a full-fledged playing. It’s still not going well enough.

Do you also play other instruments?

Have you tried to compose any songs at the piano?

I never did it on purpose, because composing songs or writing lyrics is not my craft. When I resort to this, something must inspire me. Sometimes the lyrics affect me so much that a melodic line starts to attack me, and sometimes it’s the other way around, good music inspires me to the lyrics. But it was always spontaneous, I never sat down at the piano and started composing a song.

Fortunately, I always had great authors I could count on. They were all and are great craftsmen.

Marie Rottrová took this photo a few days ago.

Photo: archive of the artist

Which were most important to you?

Jaroslav Wykrent was crucial to me. He wrote me whole songs, music and lyrics, so I name him in the first place. Vladimír Figar, Richard Kovalčík, lyricists Jarek Nohavica, Jiřina Fikejzová, Zdeněk Borovec, Pavel Vrba, Vladimír Poštulka and others were also very important to me.

Sometimes I also used Anglo-Saxon music for the song. I sang cover versions, especially in the early years on the music scene.

What were they beneficial for you?

I always chose a song that I really liked and wanted to sing it. It was in the sixties and eighties that a lot of good world music didn’t reach our listeners at all. I was glad to be able to pass it on to our audience through cover versions.

How many times were there songs that were not very well known here. For example, Bouda Na hororu, which was texted in Czech by Pavel Vrba, or Man No. 1 with a text by Jarek Nohavica. Jiřina Fikejzová wrote lyrics for French chansons. It started with the song Too So I Like, followed by Mom or Midnight Beach. Some foreign songs inspired me a lot, and when they were taken over by good Czech lyricists, I wanted to sing them.

Did you also study singing?

I never studied it and I like to say that my conservatory was Ostrava Radio. In my early days, I recorded a lot of songs there. The Ostrava Radio Orchestra existed on the radio. His duty was to fill the music with several broadcast hours a month, so he had to record a lot. There are a lot of my songs in the archive of Ostrava radio.

When I sang them in the studio, the so-called penalty listening followed, during which we discussed the first versions with the music directors and determined what should be improved, what should be different. The music directors, who are no longer in the process of recording on the radio, were very strict. They said what should be done differently and how. I remember that one of them, Jirka Pospíšil, was reprimanded me about twice the so-called Ostravaism, which sometimes escapes us, the people of Ostrava, in speech or singing.

Marie Rottrová at her concert in 1980 in the Municipal House in Prague.

Photo: ČTK

Which songs do you think were key to your career?

My first pretty big hit was White Horse. It is a cover version, the text was written to me by the then wife of music publicist Jirka Černý Miroslav. But the most important was probably Love, authored by Jaroslav Wykrent. We received the White Crow for it, the Young World magazine award for the best song of the year. It’s a strong, even anthemic song. To this day, people sing it with me at concerts.

What is your relationship to your listeners?

Positive and beautiful because they motivate me immensely. For example, when I perform outside, in the open air, and the atmosphere is relaxed, many of them shout at me. But it is never negative, on the contrary, it is very nice and encouraging. The audience is a great thing.

I’m also often excited when I’m at a concert by a foreign band. I think I’m a good viewer and a good listener. Thanks to that, I understand the audience’s desire to hear the most famous and closest songs. I have it anyway.

These days, your soul album Lady Soul 14x / 1970-2021 is released on vinyl. How did this genre get into your otherwise pop repertoire?

I started playing soul in the sixties in the band Majestic, which was the band I sang in before I went to Flamingo. We were avid soul fans. Our great friend Láďa Ondra, who spoke excellent English and had an overview of the music, directed us to him.

My then-husband Vlastimil Kučaj and I listened to soul songs on Radio Luxembourg and recorded the ones we liked on the Sonet Duo tape recorder. Lada downloaded English texts and I understood them because I had English for three years in high school. Initially, we sang soul songs mostly in English, and over time, Czech lyrics also came.

We rehearsed twice a week at the time, and I usually studied two songs during that time. More and more new ones and in two years of our cooperation there were really many of them. We played them at the club in Ostrava-Poruba in Soulová’s tea at five o’clock. A lot of people went there and we introduced them to music that was not very heard in our country at that time.

The album Lady Soul 14x / 1970-2021 is released in a re-edition and you have added a bonus to the thirteen songs from the original recording from 2018 in the form of a new song Pozhasínej. Why?

Because it’s Christmas and the re-edition of the Lady Soul album is coming out before Christmas. I haven’t sung any Christmas songs for a long time, so I thought it would be nice and maybe it would be nice.

But the song has nothing to do with soul. It was written by my son Vítek and he says about it that it is a song of a lone wolf. When he played it for me, I really liked it and I told him I wanted to sing it. She got a nice sound coat and arrangements and I believe that she will please the listeners in the run-up to Christmas.

In 2011, you left the music scene. You came back after two years, saying you missed the music. From today’s point of view, was the departure at that time necessary?

The decision to leave was excellent and the decision to return as well. In life practice, however, it turned out to me then that one should never say never. A lot of colleagues, friends and fans told me then that I shouldn’t quit. But I insisted. My seventies were approaching and I felt it was the right time to leave.

But time went on and I started to miss concerts. When Hanka Zagorová invited me as a guest to her Christmas concert in Prague’s Lantern in 2013, I was very happy. On it, I learned from the audience’s reactions how I stand on the music scene and how I feel on stage. So I decided to go back and sing again.

Marie Rottrová

Photo: archive of the artist

Didn’t you want to record a new album for your eighties? The last one with new songs, Tracks, was released in 2009.

I was thinking that maybe I could record a new record. But I didn’t get the songs I wanted. That’s why only the bonus song Pozhasínej was released.

Would you like to release another album?

Actually, I don’t even know. It will depend on whether I feel like it and if I manage to collect good songs. In recent years, sometimes someone has given me the idea to start working on a new record. However, I did not take a positive view of her. However, if I wanted the record a lot, I would definitely go for it. I don’t have that taste in me yet. We’ll see what happens next.

How do you feel on stage in front of the audience today?

Great, I really enjoy it. In August, for example, after a long break, I performed at the Brod Festival 1995 in Český Brod. I was excited. The only flaw that evening was that I was quite bitten by mosquitoes.

How do you celebrate your eighties?

Due to the situation in a close family circle. I had to cancel or move the big party because of the covid. I have eight concerts scheduled for the end of the year. If they are, it will be difficult to find time to celebrate among them. But it can be done later, this is not a problem.

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