His name was Eduard Khil, and his vocalization brought him international fame long after this broadcast was over and done with. And today, there’s some sad news regarding the Russian baritone the Internets have dubbed the Trololo Man:
Little-known Russian crooner Eduard Khil, who gained international fame when a 1976 clip of him performing on Soviet television went viral in 2010, has died, The Associated Press reported on Monday.
He was 77.
He had been hospitalized in St. Petersburg since a stroke in early April that left him with severe brain damage, according to AP. He died Monday.
Khil was a popular singer in the Soviet Union during the 1960s and 70s, but after the fall of the Iron Curtain, he slipped into obscurity.
It wasn’t until two years ago when the video of his performance ignited on YouTube, scoring more than two million views.
“I found out about it from my 13-year-old grandson,” he told RT, a Russian TV news program, in 2010. “He walked into the room, humming the song… So I asked him, ‘Why [are] you singing it?’”
The boy replied: “‘Grandpa, you’re home drinking tea here, [and] in the meantime, everyone’s singing your song on the Internet.’”
The tune he belted out, “I Am Glad, ‘Cause I’m Finally Returning Back Home,” was originally written at the height of the Cold War in 1966 with lyrics about an American cowboy.
Khil and his composer knew the highly restrictive government would never allow him to sing it.
Instead, they decided to ditch the words, and Khil simply sang the melody.
The lack of lyrics is “why it has such a rich orchestral arrangement,” Khil said. “I think that’s been the secret of its success.”
That rich orchestral arrangement also shows the influence of the bossa nova…which was very big in the mid-1960s on this side of the east/west divide. It wasn’t political, and for the most part, neither were the cowboy movies from which the original song no doubt came. But at the height of the Cold War, it was dangerous for a Russian to draw influence from anything American, and vice versa (despite all Yankee Doodle bellowing about “freedom” to the contrary…remember Tailgunner Joe McCarthy, people!)
So Eduard Khil and his composer, Arkady Ostrovsky, took a big chance with this seemingly silly song. There’s always a chance that some Soviet censor with sharp ears might have gathered…but no one did. Luckily for us all.
And Eduard Khil lived long enough to get a kick out of it all himself, thanks to the Internets. He is on report as saying he loved the fact that people were doing parodies and having fun with it. “It unites them,” he said.
No, Eduard, you united us. And without even realizing how much at first.
You will be missed.