Ivan Kral


COMPLETE BIOGRAPHY:    Ivan Kral was born in 1948 in Prague, Czechoslovakia to a musician mother and journalist father.  The award-winning composer, filmmaker and musician knew his calling early.  By the age of five, when he wrote his first song, he could sing, play guitar, piano and violin.  At 16, he was in the Top 10 Hit Parade in Czechoslovakia with, Pierot, his own composition recorded with his band, Saze.

DEFECTION - NEW YORK STRUGGLE:     The Kral family fled to New York just ahead of the Soviet Union closure of the Czechoslovakian border in 1968.  They settled in New York City, where his father, Dr. Karel Kral, was already a translator at the United Nations.  While at the UN, Dr. Kral earned Czech government wrath over his criticism of the expected Soviet invasion.

Kral, then 18 years old, adapted to his new country less readily than his older brother Pavel, 23.  He stayed in the family apartment on 81st Street, struggling to learn English with the help of Daffy Duck cartoons and hoping to return to Czechoslovakia and his rock and roll celebrity.

Eventually, he attended Geneseo College in upstate New York, earning a degree in French literature.  He paid for his education with a series of menial jobs, most notably working the midnight shift at Birds Eye Foods, where he donned a hazmat suit before jumping into 9-foot tall steel containers to remove leftover CoolWhip.

1970s - GLAM ROCK - BLONDIE - PATTI SMITH GROUP:     It was all a prelude to his life as a proto-punk, singer-songwriter and film chronicler of a musical era that still resounds in music today.  During the early 1970s glam rock era, Kral in eyeliner and satin,  was guitarist in several glitter bands, including Luger and Spike (Gene Simmons potential creation). He also made a detour to Los Angeles to play in the band of teen-idol, Shaun Cassidy. In 1974, he played guitar with Debbie Harry in Blondie.

Ziggy Stardust Spiders from Mars guitarist, Mick Ronson, and Kral collaborated, though the band never materialized.  Other 1970s unrealized projects included a group with Chris Spedding and John Cale of The Velvet Underground.  Kral's diversity and skill led to co-writing rockabilly music with Robert Gordon, reggae stars, music for children and auditions for Grand Funk Railroad and Peter Frampton.

He shared the occasional stage with Bruce Springsteen, Noel Redding from Jimi Hendrix Experience, Ronnie Spector of Ronettes and almost all of the New York 1970s punk bands.

In 1975, he joined the seminal Patti Smith Group transforming them from poetry to rock and roll.  The band recorded numerous tunes written by Kral with Smith, including debut album Horses, Radio Ethiopia, Easter and Wave.

Rock journalist Dave Thompson quotes Patti:

After the Patti Smith Group's last show in Italy,   Kral flew directly to Rockfield Studios in Wales to work with Iggy Pop (James Osterberg) on his Soldier album. He remained with Osterberg for six tours and collaborated with him on the Party album.

Kral played in bands that shared billing with Rolling Stones, Fleetwood Mac, Kiss, Journey and Tom Petty, among others.

FILMMAKER - THE BLANK GENERATION:    All the while, he was filming his musician friends in 8mm or 16mm.

Selections from CBGBs and Maxs Kansas City were edited with No Wave filmmaker Amos Poe, resulting in the 1976 film        The BLANK Generation -- hailed as the earliest video testament of the punk revolution featuring early performances of the Ramones, Talking Heads, Television, Blondie, New York Dolls and more.

1980's PERFORMER TO FILM SCORE AND SONGWRITER:    His collaboration with Babys singer,  John Waite, resulted in many songs, including the hit,  Every Step of the Way.   Kral's new solo band,  Eastern Bloc, produced one album, but disbanded after Polygram folded.

In 1982,  Kral composed the music score for the Barry Levinson film, Diner.  He wrote scores for underground films like Subway Riders, Unmade Beds and The Foreigner.

During this time, his music was recorded by many, including David Bowie, U2, Simple Minds, and Telephone from France.   Ivan had finally secured his status as an independent writer and record producer.

He stopped touring and moved to Seattle until his return to a newly democratic Prague in 1993.

BEATLES "DAY JOB:"     From CBGBs to his "day job" in the mailroom of the Beatles at ABKCo, Krals duties included driving the psychedelic Rolls Royce of John Lennon and Yoko Ono, and watching underground films over dinner with Allen Klein.

John Lennon introduced Kral to activist-folksinger, David Peel, at the ABKCo copy machine. Peel invited him to play in his Lower East Side band where Kral actually became a part-time hippie "for the experience".

RETURN TO THE NEW CZECH REPUBLIC:    A living national treasure in the newly democratic Czech Republic, Kral has 10 solo albums on Universal, Polygram and BMG.  A prolific writer and producer of major Czech talent, his work has been recorded by Dan Barta, Lucie, David Koller, Lenka Dusilova, Aneta Langerova, Jiri Suchy, Jaromir Klempir and Pavel Bobek.

AWARDS AND HONORS:    His awards include a Czech Grammy for his 1994 solo album,  Nostalgia.  Kral was also awarded Grammys for Rock Producer of the Year in 1995 and 1998.  Nominations include the Oscar-equivalent Cesky Lev for his 2001 Cabriolet film score.

Kral's Dancing Barefoot, co-written with Patti Smith entered #323 on Rolling Stone magazine's 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.  Mojo magazine ranked Horses #10 on Mojo magazines 2009 Greatest Albums Ever Made in 2009.

CBGBs HILLY KRISTAL DIES - THE END OF AN ERA:    In 2007, Kral performed his own tribute song, Wasn't It Great, at the Bowery Ballroom memorial for the late CBGB founder, Hilly Kristal.

Vanity Fair columnist James Wolcott wrote: