Gábor Presser, the legendary Kossuth and Erkel prize-winning singer-songwriter-composer, member of the famed bands Locomotiv GT and Omega, and music director of Vígszínház, celebrated his 70th birthday yesterday.
Presser started to play the piano at the age of four. After completing a music secondary school, where he studied classical music, his classmate Tamás Mihály took him into the evolving pop music scene of Hungary. From 1967, he wrote some of Omega’s original songs, as the band had generally played covers before that time. The took him in, experimenting with an unusual – and not so successful – setup: a band without solo guitar and with two keyboards. Presser was called back to the band a year later, before their English tour. After several singles, he became the number one composer of the first three Omega albums.
The most famous song he wrote for Omega is probably the band’s hit song, Gyöngyhajú lány. In 2013, after American rapper Kanye West released his hit single ‘New Slaves’, Presser claimed that roughly one-third of Kanye’s song was copied from Omega’s classic hit. They reached an agreement, and Kanye payed $100,000 to the Hungarian musician and to Hungaroton Records.
In 1971, he left Omega with drummer József Laux and formed the jazz-rock band Locomotiv GT, one of the most influential rock bands in Hungarian rock music, together with Károly Frenreisz and Tamás Barta.
In May 1972 they were invited, as the only continental European band, to the Great Western Express Festival in Lincoln, England, where they performed alongside bands and artists like Genesis and Joe Cocker. LGT held its first farewell concert on 14 May 1992; however, 5 years after the concert, in 1997, the band released an unexpected new album. They held another farewell concert at the 2007 Sziget Festival, where they performed front of 40,000 people. After Tamás Somló passed away in 2016, the band announced that they would perform on stage together again.
Presser has more than 50 albums on his discography, including his solo albums, but he has also written songs for other artists, such as Zorán, Ferenc Demjén, Klára Katona, Sándor Révész, András Kern, and many musicians from the younger generation, such as Magdi Rúzsa.
In the ’70s he also joined Hungary’s theatrical life. In 1973, the Vígszínház introduced the musical adaptation of Tibor Déry’s Képzelt riport egy amerikai popfesztiválról (An Imaginary Report on an American Rock Festival) with Presser as its composer. Later, he made several other musical pieces for the theatre, of which the most successful is probably the legendary A padlás (The Attic). Since 1978 he has been the music director of the Vígszínház. In 2008, he pushed for the launch of the Day of Hungarian Song.
Presser’s songs are incredibly popular in Hungary, and have been covered many times, from professional musicians to amateurs; we have selected some of the most interesting ones below. You can listen to the English cover of one of the most known songs of Locomotiv GT, Elfelejtett szó, by a Hungarian musician, Fred Novák below:
And here is Alice, an Indonasian girl from Eger, with a lovely cover of Neked írom a dalt – although she cannot speak Hungarian, she loves to sing Hungarian songs to her daughter: