AN ARTIST BEYOND GENERATIONS
He gave over 16 thousand concerts during his career lasting for 60 years. On all continents. His songs came out on 25 million records. A record with the song ‘Tango milonga’ came out in an unusual, as for the 30s, XX century, in circulation of 130 thousand copies. Hits ‘This last Sunday’ or ‘Autumn roses’ are hummed by the youngest generation even today
His father did not forecast him a career. Opening his hand, he used to say: ‘I will sooner have a forest grown here, rather than you will earn at least a penny from your singing’. He earned – millions of these pennies. And, although, according to his father’s will, in 1922 he started working on the railroads, he did not give up his dream about singing.
Mieczysław Fogg, in fact MIeczysław Fogiel, was born in 1901 on Starówka in Warsaw. Although he used to say that ‘he loves Warsaw more than Poland’, when it was necessary, he became a volunteer for the army in 1919 and took part in the war with the Bolsheviks.
He started singing 3 years later, as a choir singer in the Warsaw cathedral and the church of St. Ann. Soon, noticed by a well-known singer LudwikSempoliński, started learning to sing - in private lessons and in at a Music University. Moreover, in order to earn for living, he worked on the railroads, trying to do other jobs, as an opera claque. He started his first solo performances from classical, opera songs. But, in fact, he was more attracted by a lighter stage form – a song. In 1926 he took on the stage surname Fogg. 2 years later he began performances with Dana Choir, extremely popular at that time. And, since then he had successes. First with the whole choir he gave concerts in Poland, Europe and America, and from 1937 – as a solo singer. At once he became very successful, winning the first place in a plebiscite of the Polish Radio for the most popular singer. In 1939 he also became the first artist who appeared on TV – in a trial issue in Warsaw and in the same year in a the studio of London television. As Dariusz Michalski, the author of the recently published biography of Mieczysław Fogg says, there have been only a few years since he decided to get engaged in making records, being encouraged by his wife to do it – Irena, and in the beginning of the third decade of XX century, he recorded 150 songs every year.
Dignity during contempt
Invasion of Germany and Soviet Russia onto Poland only allegedly interrupted the artistic development of Mieczysław Fogg. For, soon, he started performing for wounded soldiers returning from the frontier. During war occupation he sang in cafes for Poles. He entered the structures of the National Army, was assigned for the Second Assault Battalion ‘Revenge’. He co-organized secret sets. During the Warsaw Uprising he gave over 100 concerts. He was wounded three times. He was rewarded with the Golden Cross Merits with Swords for his merits in the uprising, for helping Jews hiding in his home – he received the medal ‘A just man among the nations of the world’.
After the Warsaw Uprising the singer left his beloved capital city to live in his summer bungalow in a settlement Forest Meadow near Tarczyn. Soon, in the nearby Złotokłos, he opened his first café ‘Fogg Café’ which he relocated to Warsaw, in Marszałkowska Street. He also established the first record studio in Warsaw Fogg Record which was made public by communists after a few years.
Mieczysław Fogg was very worried about the political system in Poland. However, he did not intend to emigrate. Neither ‘inside’ nor ‘outside’, although he had a possibility to make a career in the West. He used privileges conferred to artists not publicly expressing their approval of the political system. But as his collaborators say, he could behave with dignity during the time of contempt. He also supported artists whose career ended with the beginning of the Second Polish Republic. He recorded his songs and gave concerts till he was 86 years old. He died at the age of 89. However, earlier his great dream had turned true – he lived till the time of independence of Poland.
Audience – the most important
Today, although a quarter of the century has passed since the death of Mieczysław Fogg, who is in the first ten most popular artists of the last century, his songs are still sung by other generations of singers. As his cooperators say- he was a perfect artist. He was always professionally prepared for all rehearsals, especially concerts. – Mieczysław treated audience seriously both in the Congress Hall and in every province centre of culture – says an actor Karol Stępkowski, performing on concerts with Mieczysław Fogg in the 70s. – He had high demands both from himself and his cooperators. In his private life, he was an extremely warm-hearted person, interested in others. He always remembered about name-days or other ceremonies. In his political life, he behaved as if we had lived in the interwar period. He had a distanced attitude towards the reality. He considered the communist system as the worst harm done to Poles. He often said it during private talks. Although, as we know, he did not protest against this harm.
Memory about Mieczysław Fogg is cultivated not only by journalists or singers. It is 12 years since Wojciech Dąbrowski, with Michał Fogg – a great-grandson of the artists, has organized Nationwide Festival of Songs Retro named Mieczysław Fogg. As Michał Fogg says, when his great-grandfather died, he was 15. However, his music interests were different from his great-grandfather. Today he is one of the greatest collector of posters from concerts of Mieczysław Fogg and heritage from him. He travels with an exhibition about the artist and his dream is connected with a museum about his great-grandfather.
-My great-grandfather was a warm-hearted kind man, loving and beloved great-grandfather, although we called him ‘granddad’ – he says. – When he visited us, he talked with us about our family and current matters. If he did not travel, he used to visit us every week, sometimes more often. He told us a lot about his travels. Sometimes, during talks I heard when the great-grandfather was talking with my granddad Andrzej about pre-war Warsaw. Certainly, music was something natural like breathing for us. But I do not remember us talking with our great-grandfather about it. He separated work from private life. I realized the fact how great person he was not earlier than I was 20 years old.
Smiling in memories
- I remember a concert of my great-grandfather in the Congress Hall – says Marta Lewandowska, a great-granddaughter of Mieczysław Fogg. – I was behind the scenes. I do not know how old I was then – maybe 8 or 10? I was really impressed because my great-grandfather came out to the stage with me. I was also impressed by the present I got from him – an excellent Barbie doll. I was the only person who had the doll in my place of living. Certainly, my great-grandfather was always a smiling great-grandfather for me. I did not see a great artist in him. Today I live in the summer bungalow of my great-grandparents on a meadow in Leśna Polana. Inhabitants reminisce the great-grandfather with friendliness. For example, they remember him coming to the local shop or bakery. There still live witnesses who ‘see’ smiling Mieczysław Fogg talking with someone. In the beautiful Culture Centre in Tarczyn there is a performance hall named Mieczysław Fogg. It is nice and important – emphasizes the great-granddaughter of the singer.