Today, it’s been 10 years since the tragic death of a legend and an icon of Balkan music business, the Macedonian singer Toše/Tose/Todor Proeski, who also represented his country in Eurovision in 2004. In this chronicle, I decided to relive my memories of an amazing talent, who had a whole life ahead of him and whose path ended so abruptly.
It was summer time in (I think) 2000 and it was then, when my dad first played me the CD of this new singer from Macedonia called Toše Proeski. I especially remember the duet with the 2002 and 2007 Macedonian entrant Karolina Gočeva called “Nemir”. It was already then, that I was impressed by Toše’s velvet voice and his incredible vocal control. Just listening to the studio recordings of that album, it was clear, that this guy had the “it” factor and that the only way was up. Couple of years later, dad wasn’t that fond of Toše anymore, saying that by singing in Serbian, that some of Toše’s music lost its magic. But by switching to Serbian, Toše became more and more established not just in Macedonia, but through the whole former Yugoslavia. So it was the most natural thing ever seeing him represent his country in Eurovision in 2004, where he sang the song “Life”.
After Eurovision, where Toše qualified to the final and finished on a 14th place (he was underrated, if you ask me), every media outlet wanted a piece of him. So did the TV station, which organised the annual summer song contest Melodije morja in sonca in my country, Slovenia (He was performing as one of the guests there). After the final night, I spotted him in the crowd and my then-online friends asked him for a photo with all of us. I remember singing a bit of “Life” to him, to which he hugged me, asking if I liked it. I said I loved it and I wasn’t lying. It’s still one of the best songs of 2004 without a doubt. We got the picture taken and he was very kind to all of us, smiling and not acting diva-ish at all. I saw him performing on the same event a year later, when he sang his then new single. These memories I will cherish forever and be forever grateful, that I met such a talent like him. Because little did all of us know how cruel destiny can be.
16 October 2007 – when time stood still
It was Tuesday and I was in final year of high school. It was a nice, sunny day and school was over. I rushed over to the library (had no internet at home then), to check out the latest celebrity gossip and as usual, the MF-fan that I am, I went to the entertainment section of the Swedish tabloid Aftonbladet. I spotted a picture of a car wreck and underneath the picture was “Tose Proeski was one of ex Yugoslavia’s biggest stars.” First I was confused. “Was?! WAS?! What do you mean WAS?! What’s going on?!”, then I read the headline “Eurovision-star dead in a car crash”. Then I went over to RTVSLO’s website and the worst was confirmed. And then, it was like something pushing me to some kind of vacuum, like time suddenly stopped turning.
The loss of more than just a singer
I went home in shock and on the evening that day, all the emotions came out at once. I can’t say I was a major fan of him, but him dying hit me hard. Suddenly, I remembered how I met him, how nice he was, how talented he was. I remember phone conversations with my former colleagues of OGAE Slovenia, when we were all in total disbelief and me crying hysterically, like I lost a family member. They understood me and were just as shocked as I was. I remember reading about the state of mourning in his home country, Macedonia and flashbacks of Tito’s death came to picture. I believe my shock and my sadness to him passing were nothing to how the people of Macedonia felt. There, he wasn’t just a singer, a musician. He was a phenomenon. A humanitarian, whose purpose was to do good to people around him, a UNICEF ambassador, a kind soul. He was and still is one of the few celebrities universally loved by everyone, both by his artist colleagues, as well as by the audience and his fans. His loss was so surreal, so abrupt, so unfair. Why him? Why such a good, pure soul has to go so soon? I guess we will never know the answer. Of course, there are conspiracy theories, but discussing them would only tarnish his memory and his legacy, so I will stop here.
When everyone became a fan
With every musician’s death, the media and the music industry tries to capitalise on the deceased’s legacy and milk it for all it’s worth. Toše of course, was no exception. In my home country, his albums shot to top of our album chart again, his songs were all over radio and television and suddenly, people who previously barely knew who he was, were proclaiming themselves as his biggest fans. For me, it was a chore to avoid radio stations during that time, because every time a song of his was played, I was an emotional wreck and I couldn’t listen at all. One is aware, that death is part of life. But him, he had the whole life ahead of him. He was 26, younger than I am now. He had so much to give, both musically and personally. He apparently was in process of recording the English language album “The Hardest Thing”, which was supposed to be his launch to the international market. The album was released 2 years after his death, along with the documentary, which had a premiere in cinemas all over former Yugoslavia. I didn’t see the film, didn’t dare.
As another musical flashback to his legacy I choose to put on one of the last songs that he released before his tragic passing, the song called “Moja”. A midtempo pop-rock song in Slovenian and with lyrics so beautiful it’s hard to describe.
“Sky is far away, counting stars above me
I think you are here, time is passing by faster
I didn’t give up, I will always stand close by you.”
Sleep well, Macedonian king of music. I believe no one will ever forget you. You’re still alive in all our hearts. We all will always love you and appreciate your legacy.
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