Czesław Niemen “was framed in various stories.” The artist died 20 years ago


Czesław Niemen died on January 17, 2004, at the age of just 65. A singer, musician, multi-instrumentalist and songwriter whose hits are performed by subsequent generations. – I want to emphasize that the authorities of the Polish People’s Republic never cherished Czesław. He was framed in various stories – says Krzysztof Magowski, director of the film “Dream about Warsaw”.

– He could do many things. Everyone knew that he played and sang well – he could play both the harmonium and the organ. He made money by playing at weddings. When he returned from school in Grodno after a year, he led the church choir. He also liked to draw. He often hid in the attic of his house, where he reflected and painted. He also had a camera and took photos of us – recalled Weronika Markiewicz, a resident of Stare Wasiliszki, quoted on the website It is in Wasiliszki (Nowogródek Voivodeship, currently Belarus) On February 16, 1939, Czesław Juliusz Wydrzycki was born, the son of Anna née Markowski and the craftsman Antoni Wydrzycki.

Just after the war, Czesław’s uncle – Józef Wydrzycki – left Wasiliszki with his wife and two sons – Romuald and Jerzy. They settled in a large former German house in Świebodzin (Lubusz Voivodeship). In October 1957, at the invitation of my uncle, another part of the family went to Gdańsk. – In Stare Wasiliszki there were 52 Polish houses and a large church. In 1958, Czesław was threatened with conscription into the Soviet army. Uncle Józef sent an invitation to Antoni and Anna Wydrzycki, Czesław and his sister Jadwiga. They were the last family from Stare Wasiliszki to leave for Poland – said the musician’s cousin, Jerzy Wydrzycki.

Czesław Niemen – first years in Poland

– On May 25, 1958, literally a few hours before the arrival of the truck transporting repatriated property, Czesław got married in Wasiliszki with his 18-year-old neighbor, Maria Klauzunik, a nursing school student. As the wife of a repatriate, she was able to leave the territory of the USSR and, after completing cumbersome formalities, she soon came to Poland – says biographer and collector of souvenirs Tadeusz Skliński.

Czesław Niemen – Concert of Marlena Dietrich and the Niebiesko-Czarni band in the Congress Hall in WarsawLEAVES

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Wydrzycki initially lived in Białogard, and later moved to Gdańsk and began studying at the Secondary Music School at ul. Partisans in the bassoon class. His wife continued her education in nursing school. In 1960, daughter Maria was born. – The couple had no place of their own. Czesław slept in the boiler room of the ŻAK Coastal Students’ Club, his wife in a dormitory for nurses, and their daughter spent the first five years of her life with her grandmother. Housing problems were not conducive to family life. Czesław worked part-time at the port. He also made plaques mounted on cemetery crosses and coffins in the carpentry workshop. His wife complained that he didn’t have a ‘normal job’ and was only interested in music. The divorce took place in 1971, Sklinski explained.

Czesław Niemen: from “sweet bel canto” to “rock screamer”

On July 1, 1962, Wydrzycki won the Young Talents Festival in Szczecin. Initially, he performed with the group Czerwono-Czarni, later with Niebiesko-Czarni. He met Franciszek Walicki, a popularizer of rock’n’roll in Poland, who organized performances and convinced him to replace the Latin songs sung between the group’s songs with a “bigbeat” repertoire. At the 1st Polish Song Festival in Opole (1963) he sang “I know you won’t come back”.

At the urging of Walicki and his wife, the singer adopted the pseudonym “Czesław Niemen”. “Where the blue river carries its waters/ That’s where I saw the sun shine for the first time/ I spent so many moments on its banks/ that today, without the river, I feel sad” – he sang about the Niemen River in “Time Like a River”.

The artist’s oldest preserved recordings come from 1962 – “Ave Maria no Morro”, “Malaguena Salerosa”, “The Song of the Tyrolean Highlanders” and Gene Vincent’s hit “Keep It a Secret”. In 2007, Skliński discovered them in radio archives and, thanks to journalist Marek Gaszyński, presented them on Program I of Polish Radio.

Czesław Niemen – XIII National Festival of Polish Song in OpoleLEAVES

In December 1963, Niemen performed with the Niebiesko-Czarni group at the Olympia hall in Paris. When in January 1964, Marlene Dietrich heard Niemen’s “Do you still remember me?” during the performance in the Congress Hall, she decided to purchase the copyright. The singer received half of the $400 she paid for the song. The German artist recorded the song in London with Burt Bacharach’s orchestra and sang as “Mutter, Hast Du Mir Vergeben” around the world.

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– In the mid-1960s, the slogan was ‘Polish youth sings Polish songs’, but at concerts Czesław performed the English-language song ‘Hippy Hippy Shake’ – a cover of Robert Lee ‘Chan’ Romero, known in Poland from Radio Luxemburg and from audio postcards. He repeated that this song allowed him to “transform from a sweet bel canto into a rock screamer.” The song was also included on the album, Skliński explained. In the summer of 1966, Niemen organized the Akwarele group.

Czesław Niemen – the greatest hits

After performing at the Rennes Festival (France – 1965), recorded the album “A Varsovie”. There, for the first time, he performed a song that went down in the history of Polish pop music under the title “Dream about Warsaw” with Polish lyrics by Marek Gaszyński. Currently, the song is the anthem of the capital Legia.

In Warsaw “Dream about Warsaw” for six brass bands“Dream about Warsaw” played by six brass bands. Yesterday, during the Night of Museums, nearly 100 people walked through the center of Warsaw, playing, among others, a piece by Czesław Niemen. The musicians performed, among others, at the De Gaulle Roundabout and on Krakowskie Przedmieście.Facts in the afternoon

In April 1967, Niemen recorded material for the album “Dziwny jest ten Świat”. On June 23 this year, during the “Premieres” concert at the 5th National Polish Song Festival in Opole, Niemen performed the title song. – Czesław showed expression previously unheard of in Poland and surprised everyone. However, not everyone understood the message of the song. They did not understand what could be strange in the, in their opinion, orderly PRL period of Gomułka’s stabilization. They were irritated by Czesław’s long hair and colorful clothes – explained Skliński, adding that the creator received a special award from the Minister of Culture. He also recorded the album “Do you still remember me?” with Akwarele. (1969) for the Polskie Nagrania “Muza” publishing house.

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– In 1968, Marek Piwowski made the film “Success”. Most of Czesław’s statements were taken out of context and manipulated by the director. “Success” was shown before every film screening throughout Poland. It was extremely sad because Niemen was presented as an unintelligent, conceited buffoon. In fact, he was an extremely sensitive person, to strangers – an introvert who opened up completely only to friends and colleagues. I met him in 1965 and until his death we had an excellent relationship – said Skliński.

“During several dozen years of his work, Niemen has come a long way”

The next stage in his career was the album “Niemen Enigmatic”. In 1969-70, Niemen went on a concert tour Italy, where he performed “Strange is this world” as “Io Senza Lei”. Until 1973, the creator gave concerts and recorded with the Niemen group, later – Niemen Aerolit.

– Niemen has come a long way over several dozen years of his work. From Brazilian bossanova, through the stage of rock’n’roll classics, to music that was on the border between progressive rock and psychedelic music, and in the 1970s he began his adventure with music played on electronic instruments – Hammond organ, Moog synthesizer and melletron. The first completely “electronic” album was “Katharsis” (1975). Since the end of the 1970s, he hasn’t actually performed with a band anymore. Critics believe that concerts without the participation of live people were a dead end, because other musicians provide inspiration – emphasized Skliński.

Since the late 1960s, Niemen has been composing and performing film music. The first film was the 13-minute “Bemma of Memory, a funeral rhapsod” (1969) by Janusz Rzeszewski. His music has appeared in dozens of films, theater and television shows and series, including: “Girls to Take” (1972) by Janusz Kondratiuk, “Sobie Królu” (1973) and the series “Rodzina Leśniewskich” (1981) directed by Janusz Łęski. November 21, 2014 The premiere of Krzysztof Magowski’s documentary “Dream about Warsaw” took place.

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In the 1960s, the musician lived in the Gromada Hotel in Warsaw. In the early 1970s, he received the keys to a nearly 30-meter studio apartment in a block of flats at ul. Less than. – Above the kitchen cabinets there were three meters of letters from fans, and more often from female fans – recalls Skliński. In the fall of 1973, at the Remont student club in Warsaw, Czesław met Małgorzata Krzewińska – a model and actress. They got married on September 11, 1975. A year later, Natalia was born, and on May 11, 1977 – Eleonora.

In the early 1980s, they moved into a pre-war house at ul. Wieniawski in Żoliborz. Sklinski recalls that the living room on the ground floor was actually the musician’s recording studio. – In 1976 and 1979, Czesław went on tour in the USSR. He was very popular there. In the Soviet Union, his postcard albums were bought by at least 12 million people. He played, among others: in Grodno. He reserved the first two rows in the audience for the residents of Stare Wasiliszki, which he visited then, Sklinski pointed out.

“He was framed in various stories”

– I want to emphasize that the authorities of the Polish People’s Republic never cherished Czesław. He was framed in various stories that smacked of propaganda. For example, he performed at the Soviet Song Festival in Zielona Góra, but he sang old Russian songs from before the Bolshevik revolution, he never sang a Soviet, communist song! In the late 1970s, the secret service probably spread the rumor that he had joined the Polish United Workers’ Party. During martial law, television manipulated his statement by editing a quote from Norwid about work, so that Niemen looked like a collaborator and everyone watching ‘Dziennik Telewizyjny’ saw it. During concerts for Polonia in Chicago, but also in Stockholm and Berlin, he was thrown insults and plastic bottles. He was very wronged because he experienced the ‘benefits’ of communism as a young man and was a citizen of the USSR for several years – says the director of the film “Dream about Warsaw”, Krzysztof Magowski.

Czeslaw Niemen Jacek Turczyk/PAP

In the 1990s, Czesław Niemen gave few concerts. The album “Terra Deflorata” came from the last period. “Lord, you gave us the miracle of the universe/the fruit of the Universe – the Earth/man – a brutal technocrat is raping its destiny,” he sang. – He was an extremely gentle man, but he was endowed with great physical strength. He regularly trained bodybuilding. He carried heavy amplifiers that would normally be carried by two roadies. At the same time, he became a vegetarian. When people expressed surprise, he said: “An elephant only feeds on greenery, and how much strength does it have?” He spoke quietly with his characteristic frontier, frontal, soft L – recalls Magowski.

Czesław Niemen died on January 17, 2004 at the Warsaw Oncology Center – Institute. Maria Skłodowska-Curie for lymph node cancer. Several days later, the creator was buried at Powązki Cemetery in Warsaw.

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Main photo source: LEAVES

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