Oliver Dragojević’s Family and Friends’ Emotional Farewell At Split Commemoration

By 31 July 2018

July 31, 2018 — Croatian music legend Oliver Dragojević was honored by those he inspired and loved at a memorial commemoration in Split’s theater.

“I want to tell my captain that… Everything is as it should be. And the sea is all yours.”

The skies, crystalline. The seas — calm.

A fitting peace greeted Croatia’s first sad mornings without Oliver Dragojević, the local kid from Korčula whose signature raspy croon and down-home charm fueled a decades-long career as the country's undisputed music titan.

Dragojević died on Sunday after a year-long battle with cancer. Those inspired, led, helped and loved by Dragojević gathered in Split to commemorate the legendary singer — their captain — at the city’s theater. You can see the live proceedings in the feed at the bottom.

They came — pop idols, actors, composers, and of course the politicians — and they wept. They sang.

And those that spoke bore witness to perhaps Dragojević’s second-greatest legacy: he was a universally-loved, controversy-free public figure, the rarest of creatures in these parts. Dragojević reached universal acclaim partially through his music, yes, but also by aggressively shoving away the trappings of success. Oliver's "everyman" appeal and approachability at times even outshadowed the his music.

Perhaps no one at the commemoration captured this spirit better than Oliver’s long-time collaborator, friend and arguable musical inheritor, Gibonni.

“Oliver said how, on his boat, he’s both the captain and servant,” the singer said. “I know he was talking about his boat, but all of us who are his friends know that it held true for all other segments of his life, and in his music and amongst people.”

The singer and songwriter, who collaborated with Dragojević numerous times, held back tears as he regaled the audience with his ultimate image of Oliver. Two years ago, in the bitter cold of winter, he watched as Oliver and his sons disembarked from their boat, the singer carrying a solitary bag of the days’ catch.

“That was Oliver, The most-celebrated, greatest… going over a pier, freezing.”

Dragojević’s humility was a recurring theme throughout the event.

“He was a lighthouse for us,” said composer Nikša Bratoš. “He was at the same time the greatest and most humble. May the earth be light, may your seas be calm. The city and its people have always been yours and will be forever.”

The commemoration ended, fittingly, with the audience joining a rendition of “Vjeruj u Ljubav,” [Believe in Love] a touchstone song and a staple at Oliver’s concerts.