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300,000 mourners pay respects to Czech singer Karel Gott, 'Sinatra of the East'

300,000 mourners pay respects to Czech singer Karel Gott, 'Sinatra of the East'
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An estimated 300,000 people were expected to pay tribute to Czech singer Karel Gott, an artist whose popularity crossed from east to west during the Cold War.

Fans stood for hours in a line stretching back at least two kilometres to bid the man nicknamed "Sinatra of the East" farewell.

Gott died on 1 October at the age of 80, after a battle with acute leukaemia.

The mourners paid their respects at the Zofin Palace building in Prague, where Gott’s flower-covered coffin lay in state, ahead of a memorial service.

Karel Gott in 1999Reuters

“I will always remember him because he was part of my life for 57 years and that’s why I want to pay him respects for everything he gave us in his songs,” Iva Skudrnpova, a pensioner from Prague, said.

He shot to stardom under communism and remained popular after the 1989 Velvet Revolution.

Unlike many other Czech artists, Gott performed at home and abroad after the 1968 Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia.

Gott was popular across eastern Europe, often singing in German, and in Russia, and also performed in the West during the communist era. He spent six months in Las Vegas in 1967 and later returned to the United States, including giving two concerts at New York’s Carnegie Hall in 2000 and 2005.