Croatian Music Guide: Ivo Robić

Ivo Robić, Croatian singer
Image by Front Slobode

Ivo Robić was a legendary Croatian pop singer and composer who left an enormous amount of evergreens in his wake. During the 50s, Ivo’s most popular song “Morgen” overtook the hits of the world’s most esteemed musicians of the time including Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, and Dean Martin on the Billboard music top list. He was the first Croatian singer to become an international music star.

Due to his soulful crooning, Ivo was known as the “Croatian Sinatra”. He always looked, behaved, and sounded like a true gentleman easily recognized because of his signature bow tie. Thanks to his expressive, gentle music and world recognition, he shook the whole Croatian music scene to its core. Ivo’s mellow music easily transports us to a simpler time.

Take a deep breath and let’s take a stroll through the life and music of Ivo Robić.

Early years of Ivo Robić

Ivo Robić was born on January 28, 1923 in Garešnica, a town in Bjelovar-Biogora county. His father led the tamburica (tamburitza) orchestra, so he grew up in a musical household. During his childhood, Ivo sang in the choir and played the violin.

In high school, he formed a dixieland band with his friends. Dixieland jazz (hot jazz, traditional jazz) is an early genre of jazz music that combines elements of blues and ragtime and includes the use of wind instruments.

While in law school, he performed in bars around Zagreb. This was a huge milestone for his musical career. He was soon invited to perform on many radio broadcasts on “Radio Zagreb” .

Ivo later attended a music school called “Državna muzička škola” in Zagreb. In addition to the violin, he played the piano, saxophone, double bass, clarinet, and flute.

In 1946, Ivo married Marta, the love of his life. They met during World War II and stayed together for the rest of his life. This old romantic always said of Marta that she was not only his wife and manager, but his right hand as well. Ivo took Marta on all his tours and concerts across the former Yugoslavia, Europe, Australia, and Canada.

Ivo Robić, singer known as "Croatian Sinatra"
Image by HRT

Foreign career

Ivo’s first record was called “Ti ne slutiš / Kad zvjezdice male” (You don’t have an idea / When little stars). They were recorded in 1949.

  • Listen to Ti ne slutiš on YouTube here
  • Listen to Kad zvjezdice male on YouTube here

During the 50s, Ivo’s professional career as a musician began to blossom. He started performing on the terrace of the famous Hotel Kvarner in Opatija. Ivo frequently traveled between Zagreb and Opatija due to his many performances.

The city of Opatija had a huge role in his career. He sang in Opatija regularly over the course of 30 years. His performances on the terrace of Hotel Kvarner became one of his trademarks.

The moment that truly changed his career happened after a performance in Opatija. The owner of a night club in Hof, Germany was in the audience. He was so impressed with Ivo that he invited him to sing at his club in Germany.

Ivo performed at the club in Hof, Germany in 1955. He unexpectedly extended his stay in Germany for an additional 7 months, which turned out to be a great decision. After Hof, Ivo was offered more gigs in Germany. He was being noticed. Ivo expanded his experience as a musician and also met important people who played an important role in the expansion of his career outside Croatia.

A song “Morgen“

In 1958, Ivo recorded a song called “Morgen” composed by Swiss composer Peter Moesser. Ivo likely wasn’t expecting to achieve international popularity with this tune, but that is what he got. Morgen was the first song written in German language to be listed on the Billboard charts in the United States.

Morgen reached no. 13 on the Billboard chart and 23 on the British chart. More than a million records were sold which is the biggest commercial musical success of any Croatian musician.

As this was the song that made him famous, he was nicknamed “Mister Morgen”.

A song “Strangers in the Night”

“Strangers in the Night” is a song performed by Frank Sinatra, but has a mysterious origin story. There has been suggestion that Ivo was the original author of this song. He initially called the song “Ta ljetna noć” (That summer night). The song was rejected at a Split festival, so Ivo sold the authorship to Bert Kaempfert. Bert was the leader of a popular German orchestra with whom Ivo collaborated.

Bert composed a German version of the song and gave it to Frank Sinatra. Sinatra achieved great success with his English version of the song. It earned him two Grammy awards for the best song and the best male voice in 1967.

Although there is still a doubt about the authorship of this song, it really sounds like Ivo Robić’s musical style. Listen to Ivo sing his version below, then you be the judge.

Height of Ivo Robić’s career

Ivo Robić reached the pinnacle of his career during the 1960s. He recorded more than 30 singles in Croatia, more than 15 records in Germany, and more than 10 in Czechoslovakia. He was also made honorary president of the Hrvatska glazbena unija (Croatian Music Union).

Among the many prestigious awards that Ivo earned for his music, the most important ones are Porin za životno djelo (Porin for life’s work) and Josip Štolcer Slavenski music award for music art.

Although he mostly performed his own songs, he also recomposed many popular musical hits from movies. The most popular examples are “Mama Juanita”‘ (Mother Juanita) from the movie “Jedan dan života” (One day of life) and “S pjesmom u srcu” (With a song in a heart) from the film “Mladić s trubom” (A young man with the trumpet).

Ivo Robić died from a heart attack on March 9, 2000 at the age of 74, in Rijeka.

In 2006, Ivo was given a star posthumously on Hrvatska ulica slavnih (Croatian Street of Fame), which is located on the promenade “Slatina” in Opatija. This street currently has 32 stars in honor of prominent Croatian athletes, artists, and scientists. Some of them include Janica Kostelić (skier), Dino Dvornik (musician), Goran Ivanišević (tennis player), Miroslav Krleža (writer) and Nikola Tesla (who I think we all know).

5 Ivo Robić songs to get you started

1. Morgen

2. Samo jednom se ljubi (You love only once)

3. Tebi grade moj (To you my city)

4. Ta tvoja ruka mala (That little hand of yours)

5. Jabuke i trešnje (Apples and cherries)

Check out our other Croatian Music Guides:

Sharing is Caring:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Subscribe to the Expat in Croatia Newsletter and get a FREE GUIDE to the 9 Tips for Battling Croatia's Bureaucracy.