Ivan Král (born in Prague) is a Grammy Award-winning, Czech-born American composer, filmmaker, record producer, bass guitar player, and singer-songwriter. He works across many genres including punk, rock, jazz, soul, country and film scores. His songs have been recorded by such artists as U2, Pearl Jam, Téléphone, Patti Smith, Iggy Pop, David Bowie, Simple Minds, and John Waite, among others. Unfortunately he died of cancer in February 2, 2020, aged 71
Král started his American music career during the early 1970s glam rock scene in New York where his band, Luger,] performed at many trendy venues, including Max’s Kansas City. After their breakup in 1973, he joined Shaun Cassidy’s backing group, then Blondie, then Patti Smith, then Iggy Pop.
Between 1975–1979, Král was co-writer, guitarist and bassist of Patti Smith Group on her first four albums; including debut, Horses (1975), called one of the All-Time 100 Greatest Albums by Time magazine in 2006. The album is in the National Recording Registry at the Library of Congress because it’s “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”
His work also appears on other Smith albums, including Radio Ethiopia (1976), Easter (1978) and Wave (1979).
Some of his songs during this period include “Ask the Angels”, “Pissing in a River”, “25th Floor”, “Revenge”, “Citizen Ship”, “Birdland”, “Ain’t It Strange”, “Pumping (My Heart)” and her big hit “Dancing Barefoot” which Rolling Stone included on its “500 Greatest Songs of All Time,” and has been recorded by many including U2, Simple Minds and Pearl Jam.
Král had refugee status until 1981 when he obtained US citizenship. He wanted a visual diary of his days in America in case he was ever deported back home to Czechoslovakia where rock music was forbidden so he bought a Super 8 camera from a pawn shop. He began filming at Murray the K shows in 1968, then eventually got a 16mm where he filmed other concerts. Some of the clips appear in his 1975 amateur compilation, “Night Lunch”
Král also filmed his bandmates and friends at rehearsals, apartments, Bottom Line, and CBGB club. He compiled the footage into a 1976 film titled “The Blank Generation” (not to be confused with a 1980 film titled “Blank Generation” that also stars Richard Hell from Television) which includes Ramones, Talking Heads, Blondie, New York Dolls, Television, drag queen Wayne County and more, before they had record deals. No Wave filmmaker Amos Poe helped Král edit “The Blank Generation” by adding music from each band’s cassettes and cutting irrelevant scenes.
“The Blank Generation” D-I-Y clip compilation is often referred to as the original visual document that genuinely captures the birth of New York punk as it was happening. There are no effects, production, posing, scripts or budget. It is the source film for many music documentaries worldwide.
Král also shot three rare short films from 1976 – 1979 titled “Rat”, “Raven”, and “Rabbit” which capture his days in the Patti Smith Group, with her band backstage and onstage.
In 1979, after Patti’s last show in Florence, Italy, Iggy Pop invited Král to Rockfield Studios in Wales to work on his Soldier album, with David Bowie as producer. After the “Soldier” tour, Král became Iggy’s co-writer and guitarist for all the original songs on his 1981 album, Party.
Král hoped to build a career as a film composer by heading to Los Angeles to compose music for the Barry Levinson film Diner (1981) but eventually returned to New York. He wrote and recorded the film scores for three films by underground filmmaker Amos Poe, titled, Unmade Beds, The Foreignerand Subway Riders in his apartment on his mini Moog synthesizer, piano and guitar.
The 1980s brought many projects, though nothing long term. He r7orded and toured with former Babys singer, John Waite and co-wrote songs for his Ignition album.
Král wrote for many, including Mick Ronson, collaborator for 1993) named PAWS where Mick Jagger, B-52’s, and reggae talents like Kiddus I rehearsed.
In 1989, the Berlin Wall fell and eastern Europe emerged from Soviet-style communism. Král returned to Prague where he received a heartwarming welcome back home in 1993. He discovered a nation of motivated musical talent, but with little experience. Many major rock artists worked with Král to help shape the new Czech rock scene. Because he spoke Czech and had some success “in the west” he was in a unique position to become a songwriter, producer and musician for some of the country’s top talent, earning three Grammys.
Patti Smith, while still living in Detroit, recorded her poem “Perfect Moon” at 54 Sound studio for Král’s 1995 album. John Cale of the Velvet Underground wrote and recorded the piano for the song which only appears on Král’s “Nostalgia” album in the Czech Republic.
Král’s latest album, Always (2014) is on Warner Music Czech Republic but was recorded in Detroit. He continues to work globally from his Ann Arbor, Michigan home studio. His prior ten albums were released on Universal and Polygram were recorded in the Czech Republic or in Seattle.
He is a collector of late avante-garde Czech photographer František Drtikol. The video for his song “Winner Takes All” was inspired by Drtikol’s work with the female form.
Král wrote music for the memorial of President Vaclav Havel and performed it for live broadcast across the Czech Republic following the St. Vitus Cathedral funeral where world leaders came to pay their final respects.
As a producer, Král worked with The Vipers and the Band of Outsiders, along with Czech bands such as Lucie and David Koller, Ivan Hlas, Jiri Suchy, Aneta Langerova, Miroslav Žbirka, Alice, Debbi, Triny, Garage. He also released many solo albums.