Ivan Kral

About Ivan Kral

Guitarist and songwriter Ivan Král has played alongside some of rock's most influential artists, including Patti Smith, Iggy Pop, and John Cale, among others, in a career that spanned five decades. Born in Prague, Czechoslovakia, Král originally intended to be a filmmaker before discovering rock & roll thanks to the Rolling Stones. The mid- to late '60s saw Král form a Czech band, Saze, but before the group could take off, he was exiled from Czechoslovakia, due to comments his father made about the 1968 Russian Invasion of Czechoslovakia. This couldn't have happened at a worse time for Král, because just as he began settling down in his new hometown, New York City, word came in that a song Král had previously written and recorded with Saze had just gone Top Ten back home. Král pressed on however, looking for bands to play with, and even landing a job for a while at the Beatles' fan club. The early '70s saw him get involved with an obscure group, Luger, who are best known for being part of the same glam scene that spawned the likes of the New York Dolls and Kiss. When Luger failed to take off, Král joined an early version of Blondie (then called "Angel and the Snake"), before he came across a poetry reading by a then-unknown Patti Smith. Smith just happened to be looking for a second guitarist to complete her backing group at the time, and after a try-out (which supposedly consisted of a 30-minute version of "Gloria," to see if he could keep up), Král was welcomed as a member. Král would also contribute bass, keyboards, and backing vocals in the group, and although he appeared on Smith's classic debut album, 1975's Horses, it wasn't until her sophomore effort, 1976's Radio Ethiopia, that he began contributing significant songwriting to the group. Further releases with Smith followed, 1978's Easter and 1979's Wave (the latter included one of his most popular collaborations with Smith, "Dancing Barefoot"), as well as a one-off live recording with John Cale, Even Cowgirls Get the Blues. While many assumed a long and successful career lay ahead for Smith and her band, the singer abruptly decided to retire from music in order to raise a family with former MC5 guitarist Fred "Sonic" Smith. Suddenly without a band, Král phoned up old acquaintance Iggy Pop and joined his solo band just as the '70s wound down. Like his previous experience with Smith, Král's initial recording with Pop, 1980's Soldier, failed to fully utilize his songwriting talents, a problem that would soon be corrected on 1981's Party. The Král-Pop union would prove to be short-lived however, as the guitarist joined John Waite for his solo debut, 1982's Ignition, before moving on once more. Král would later turn up as part of the pop group Eastern Bloc (issuing a lone album in 1987, Eastern Bloc), before relocating to Seattle during the early '90s, and forming another group, Native. A superb Král documentary was filmed around this time for Czech TV, Dancing Barefoot (issued later on DVD as Blank Generation/Dancin' Barefoot), while Král's first-ever solo album, Nostalgia, was issued in 1996, by which time he had returned to Czechoslovakia. Smith decided to come out of retirement, but disappointingly, Král was not involved in Smith's subsequent recordings or tours. The early 21st century saw him produce and play on the debut recording by Triny Vocal Trio, Gypsy Streams, as well as Noel Redding's Live from Bunk R Prague. Ivan Král died on February 2, 2020; he was 71 years old. ~ Greg Prato

    Prague, Czechoslovakia
  • BORN
    May 12, 1948

Similar Artists