Đorđe Balašević

Đorđe Balašević
Đorđe Balašević
Ђорђе Балашевић
Background information
Born 11 May 1953 (1953-05-11) (age 58)
Novi Sad, SR Serbia, FPR Yugoslavia
Origin Novi Sad, Serbia
Genres Pop rock, rock, chanson, folk rock
Occupations Singer, songwriter
Instruments Vocals, guitar
Years active 1977 – present
Labels ZKP RTLJ, Jugoton, PGP-RTB, Diskoton, UFA Media, Hi-Fi Centar, Salayka
Associated acts Žetva, Rani Mraz

Đorđe Balašević (Serbian Cyrillic: Ђорђе Балашевић, born May 11, 1953 in Novi Sad, Vojvodina, Serbia, then Yugoslavia) is a prominent Serbian singer-songwriter. Balašević started his career in the 1977 as a member of the pop rock band Žetva, before leaving to form the pop rock band Rani Mraz. After releasing two albums, Rani Mraz disbanded, and Balašević started a successful solo career, spanning up to the present. While his initial works were mostly pop rock-oriented, in his later career he often used elements of rock, chanson and folk music, while his lyrics often dealt with romantic, humorous or political- and social-related themes.


Early biography

Balašević was born to a Serbian father, Jovan Balašević, and to Veronika Dolenec, half Hungarian, half Croatian from Rasinja 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. 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. Instead, he joined the band Žetva (Harvest) in 1977.

Musical career

Early career: Žetva and Rani Mraz

After Balašević joined the group, Žetva recorded a tango-oriented humororus hit single "U razdeljak te ljubim" ("I Lay a Kiss on Your Parting"),[1] which was sold in more than 180,000 copies.

In 1978, he left Žetva and, together with Verica Todorović, formed the band Rani Mraz (Early Frost). The band had its début at the 1978 music festival in Opatija with the song "Moja prva ljubav" ("My First Love"). Rani Mraz had unsteady lineup, but managed, however, to gain huge popularity with Balašević's pop rock-oriented songs released on 7" singles. During 1978, former Suncokret members Biljana Krstić and Bora Đorđević joined the band (forming the most famous Rani Mraz lineup), and together they recorded "Računajte na nas" ("Count on Us"), written by Balašević,[2] a song which celebrated the youth's adoption of the communist revolution. The song became popular with both the communist authorities and the people, becoming an anthem of the Yugoslav youth.

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 Mom instead of Prom Photo in the Shop-Window) with the help of studio musicians.[3]

At the 1979 Split Festival Balašević won the first prize with the single "Panonski mornar" ("Pannonian Sailor"). A few months later, Rani Mraz sold out Belgrade's Dom Sindikata Hall eight times in a row. In 1980, Balašević served in the Yugoslav People's Army in Zagreb and Požarevac, where he had a role in the TV show Vojnici (Soldiers), but also found time to write song "Zbog tebe" ("Because of You") for Zdravko Čolić[4] and lyrics for several songs recorded on Srebrna Krila album Ja sam samo jedan od mnogih s gitarom (I'm only One of Many with a Guitar).[5]

By the end of 1980, Balašević and Krstić released their second and final album under the name Rani Mraz, with a symbolic title Odlazi cirkus (The Circus Is Leaving).[6] The album reaffirmed Balašević's status and delivered several hit songs, one of them being "Priča o Vasi Ladačkom" ("Story of Vasa Ladački") which went on to become one of Balašević's signature songs. However, Rani Mraz officially dissolved shortly afterwards.

Solo career


Balašević started his solo career in 1982 with the album Pub (Jack)[7] which was well received, brining hits "Boža zvani Pub" ("Boža Known as the Jack"), "Pesma o jednom petlu" ("Song about a Rooster"), "Lepa protina kći" ("Archpriest's Beautiful Daughter") and "Ratnik paorskog srca" ("Warrior with Peasant's Heart"). The album was produced by Josip Boček, who would also produce Balašević's folowing two releases.[8] Shortly after he had a role in the TV series Pop Ćira i pop Spira (Priest Ćira and Priest Spira), recorded after Stevan Sremac's novel of the same title. He spent the winter of 1982-1983 on a tour, during which he sold out Belgrade's Sava Center hall for the first time. His Sava Center concerts would become his trademark in years to follow. At the time, he wrote the song "Hej, čarobnjaci, svi su vam đaci" ("Hey, Magicians, Everyone Can Learn from You") for the football club Red Star Belgrade. The song was released on a 7" single.[9]

In December 1983, Balašević released the album Celovečernji The Kid (Wholevening the Kid)[10], which featured hits "Svirajte mi 'Jesen stiže, dunjo moja'" ("Play 'Autumn Is Coming, My Dear' to Me"), "Neko to od gore vidi sve" ("Someone from up above Watches it All"), "Blues mutne vode" ("Muddy Water Blues"), "Lunjo" ("Hey, Tramp") and "Don Francisco Long Play". The following album, 003, was released in 1985,[11] and brought hits "Slovenska" ("Slavic Song"), "Al' se nekad dobro jelo" ("Back Then Food Was Good"), "Badnje veče" ("Christmas Eve") and "Olivera".

In 1986, Balašević released the album Bezdan (Abyss),[12] which brought hits "Ne lomite mi bagrenje" ("Don't Break My Locust Trees"), "Bezdan" and "Ne volim januar" ("I Don't Like January"). On this album Balašević worked with musicians which would became his live and studio support for the first time. The record was produced by Đorđe Petrović and arrangement was done by Aleksandar Dujin.[13] Those two would be the key associates of Balašević in the following years. They became the backbone of Balašević's supporting band The Unfuckables (although this is just a nickname, as he performs under his own name and the support band is never billed).

In 1987, Balašević released his first live album, double album U tvojim molitvama - Balade (In Your Prayers - Ballads). The album was recorded during 1986 and 1987 on his concerts in Zetra hall in Sarajevo, Ledena dvorana and Šalata in Zagreb, Sava Centar in Belgrade, and Studio M in Novi Sad. The album featured a gift 7" single with previously unreleased tracks "1987" and "Poluuspavanka ("Half-Lullaby").[14] The album also featured previously unrecorded track "Samo da rata ne bude" ("Just Let There be no War"). The song was recorded live with a large children's choir, which, together with lyrics warning about the war (which indeed will start four 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.[15] The song "Requiem" was dedicated to late Josip Broz Tito, while satire "Soliter" ("High-rise") caricatures Yugoslavia as a building in which only façade still holds while foundations slide. Blues sound was present in the songs "Neki se rode kraj vode" ("Some Were Born By the Water") and "Nemam ništa s tim" ("I Have Nothing to Do with It"). Balašević's following album, Tri posleratna druga (Three Afterwar Friends), was subtitled Muzika iz istoimenog romana (Music from the Novel of the Same Name), referring to his novel Tri posleratna druga. The album was recorded by Dujin, bass guitarist Aleksandar Kravić, and two musicians from Rijeka, guitarist Elvis Stanić (a former Linija 23, Denis & Denis, and Dr Doktor member) and drummer Tonči Grabušić.[16] The album featured radio hits "Kad odem" ("When I'm Gone") "D-moll" ("D minor"), "Ćaletova pesma" ("Dad's Song"), "Saputnik" ("Fellow Traveler"), "O. Bože" ("Oh God"), and folk-oriented "Devojka sa čardaš nogama" ("A Girl with Csárdás Legs"). The song "Sugar Rap" featured caricatured rap sound.

War years and after

As the Yugoslav wars 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 the Moon in the Eyes") which heavily criticised and denounced the ongoing war.

After a long pause, he issued Na posletku... (After all...) in 1996. The change in sentiment was obvious: Na posletku... 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 the 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" ("The 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 "Sevdalinka", but still preserving patriotism with "Dok gori nebo nad Novim Sadom" ("While the Sky is Burning Above Novi Sad"), 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 Na posletku.... The album's subtitle was Priča o Vasi Ladačkom.../Muzika iz nesnimljenog filma (Story of Vasa Ladački.../Music from the Film that was not Filmed) referring to Rani Mraz 1980 ballad Priča o Vasi Ladačkom which went on to become one of Balašević's signature pieces, and to the film which should have been based on the song and filmed by Balašević and actor and film director Ljubiša Samardžić (the disagreement between Balašević and Samardžić led to two films based on the same story: Samardžić's entitled Jesen stiže, dunjo moja, released in 2004, and Balašević's Kao rani mraz, released in 2010).


His concerts are known to last for more than four hours at a time, are almost always sold out, and his fans are extremely faithful to his work and his performances.

Apart from his very large opus and loyal fans, he has a custom of making long pauses between songs and commenting on current events. Therefore his concerts are more of a cabaret than pop concerts in the common sense of the word.

His first concert in Zagreb after the war (in Ledena dvorana hall, capacity 10,000 people) on December 13, 2002, was sold out three months in advance, so another one had to be scheduled for the next day. That one was also sold out, an achievement rarely seen in Zagreb.

His traditional New Year's concerts in "Sava Center" hall in Belgrade (capacity 3,672 seats) are traditionally sold out too. He sold out "Sava Center" for the first time in the 1982/1983 season,[17] started his regular New Year's concerts in 1986 [2] and in the 1990s and 2000s he was performing up to 11 evenings in a row (4 concerts in a row in 1993/1994 [3], 10 in 1996/1997 [4], 9 in 1997/1998 [5], 7 in 1998/1999 [6], 11 in 2001/2002)


During the rise of the Internet in the 1990s, Balašević fans formed two Internet fan clubs named Balasevic Fan Klub and (ne)normalni balaševićevci. The latter club went so far to form a tribute band called (Ne)normalni bend [7] which at first played at meetings of club members, but as of 2006 tours Serbia and sometimes other countries playing Balašević's songs.

He has a particularly large group of fans in parts of former Yugoslavia other than Serbia, so he frequently tours Slovenia and Croatia. Although there is a number of his older fans who were "infected" during 1980s, most of his fans are "younger than some of his songs" as he likes to say and were recruited during the war. During war years he was not welcome in Croatia because of his Serbian descent and residence, but his concerts in the Slovenian cities of Ljubljana and Maribor were attended by large groups of (mostly younger) Croatians, who often outnumbered Slovenians. His war-time concerts (like the one on April 2, 2000, in Budapest were attended by both Croats and Serbs from all parts of each of the two countries [8]).

At that time, a small group of people from Split (calling themselves Optimists) became famous for traveling large distances to attend his concerts as he couldn't perform in their town. They became a symbol for the devotion of Balašević's fans. Balašević finally performed in Split on December 16, 2004.


Since one of his first songs "Računajte na nas", Balašević has been politically involved. Together with another early single "Tri put sam video Tita" ("I Saw Tito Three Times"), these songs summed up his early political position: pan-southslavic, patriotism and Titoism, although he sometimes confronted with hard line conservatives for playing rock music which was perceived as western influence.

During the second half of the 1980s, new feelings started to emerge from his songs. Bitterness and depression (culminating in the songs "1987" and "Samo da rata ne bude" released in 1987 and with the album Panta Rei released in 1989) were harbingers of the bloody breakup of Yugoslavia which ensued in the first half of the 1990s. His songs and stage speeches began showing disillusionment and sadness over the fact that bloodshed was possible in the Yugoslavia he once admired. He summed up that overall feeling in a sentence of his book Tri posleratna druga: "While we were growing up, the biggest insult for us was when dark emigrant forces called our homeland an unnatural, artificial creation. When we grew up, the biggest insult for us was when we realised that was true." He openly criticized the negative and destructive aspects produced by the changes in the political and economic systems, and the Serbian, Croatian and Slovene nationalism.

In the ensuing war years, Balašević had some serious problems with the regime of Slobodan Milošević because he refused to join the army and openly stated his opposition to the regime. At his concerts he often criticized and made fun of Milošević and other Serbian politicians. The pressure on him escalated after 1999 NATO bombing of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, when his family fled to Maribor, Slovenia, but he remained in their family house in Novi Sad so that he could not be accused of fleeing the city in the times of trouble.

In 2000, he took part in demonstrations during and following the downfall of Slobodan Milošević.

In 1996, he became the UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador for his antiwar statements during the Yugoslav wars and held the first postwar concert in Sarajevo as the first Serbian artist visiting war-torn Bosnia and Herzegovina.


Being actively involved in commenting society and being such a high-profile celebrity in countries of former Yugoslavia, it was easy for Balašević to become controversial.

  • In 1991, when Croatia and Slovenia were on the verge of declaring independence from SFRY, he performed a song named "Bluz za braću Slovence" (trans. "Blues for Slovenian Brothers") where he openly criticised Slovenes for their plans to secede from Yugoslavia, going so far as to even make fun of them. Later he apologised for that song and his family even lived in Maribor for some time.
  • Some critics state that in his song "Ne lomite mi bagrenje" ("Don't Break my Locusts") released on his 1986 album Bezdan he was metaphorically speaking against Albanian terror over Serbs in the conflict on Kosovo.[18] Balašević later explained, "It is not a song about ethnicities, but rather about good and evil, and I don't regret anything. I called Evil by its full name even when others praised it. [referring to Milošević regime]".[19] Later, in late 1990s, he stated, "I didn't know Serbs would become Shiptars to Shiptars. That turned around. We are the ones who break locusts now, but I can't take the blame for that".[20]

Personal life

Balašević currently lives in Novi Sad, in the same house where he grew up, with his three children and his wife Olivera (born Savić in Zrenjanin),[22] who was a ballerina and a member of gymnastics national team.


The 1998 book YU 100: najbolji albumi jugoslovenske rok i pop muzike (YU 100: The Best albums of Yugoslav pop and rock music) features two Đorđe Balašević solo albums, Bezdan (ranked #25) and Pub (ranked #66), and one Rani Mraz album, Mojoj mami umesto maturske slike u izlogu (ranked #44).[23]

On the 2006 B92 Top 100 Domestic Songs list the song "Priča o Vasi Ladačkom" was polled #13. Although originally released by Rani Mraz, on the list the song is credited to Balašević only.

In 2007, twenty-one bands from Balašević's native Novi Sad, including Zbogom Brus Li, Pero Defformero, Super S Karamelom and others, recorded a tribute album to Balašević entitled Neki noviji klinci i....[24]


With Žetva


  • "U razdeljak te ljubim" / "Srce mi je kao ratar" (1977)

With Rani Mraz

Studio albums


  • "Moja prva ljubav" / "Kristifore crni sine..." (1978)
  • "Računajte na nas" / "Strašan žulj" (1978)
  • "Oprosti mi Katrin" / "Život je more" (1978)
  • "Panonski mornar" / "Moja draga sad je u Japanu" (1979)
  • "Lagana stvar" / "Prvi januar (popodne)" (1979)
  • "Tri puta sam video Tita" / Tri puta sam video Tita - instrumental" (1981)


Studio albums

Live albums



  • "Ljubio sam snašu na salašu i druge priče" (1978)
  • "Hej čarobnjaci svi su vam đaci" / "Hej čarobnjaci svi su vam đaci - instrumental" (1982)
  • "1987." / "Poluuspavanka" (1987)

Tribute albums


  • Računajte na nas - book of poems
  • I život ide dalje - collection of columns
  • Jedan od onih života - novel
  • Dodir svile (1998) - book of poems
  • Tri posleratna druga - novel
  • ...i od dva-tri akorda (jer ni ne umem bolje ja...) - book of poems
  • Kao rani mraz - screenplay for movie


External links

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