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Russian crooner dies after late YouTube fame

4th June 2012, Comments0 comments


Eduard Khil, a Russian crooner who had an unexpected career revival in his later years with an Internet hit nicknamed "the Trololo song," died on Monday at the age of 77, Russian television said.

The award-winning baritone launched his career in the 1960s with patriotic songs including "Where does the motherland begin?", which Russian President Vladimir Putin famously played on the piano at a charity gala with stars including Sharon Stone.

But in 2010 he gained international fame when bloggers unexpectedly picked up a video where Khil, dressed in a brown double-breasted suit, enthusiastically showed off his range in a wordless song.

The video went viral, swiftly gaining millions of views on YouTube. It was parodied on US television shows including the animated sitcom "Family Guy".

Khil, who was renamed "Mr Trololo", told Radio Liberty he found out about his newfound fame from his 13-year-old grandson, and said he was enjoying all the attention.

He went on to post a video on YouTube himself calling for people to come up with their own lyrics for the song.

"Thank you for getting such a kick of energy and optimism from listening to this great melody," he said in the video.

Khil was already a household name at home, where he was awarded the title of People's Artist of Russia in 1974, performing songs by some of the Soviet Union's top composers.

He was one of the stars of "estrada," the Soviet answer to rock 'n' roll. The songs were short on rhythm and performers barely moved on stage, singing lyrics that could be poetic but were often ideologically tinted.

The song that became a YouTube hit was written in 1966 and originally had lyrics about an American riding across the prairie to his sweetheart, Khil revealed recently.

But the composer and Khil decided to replace the words with nonsense syllables, fearing their Western content would not pass the censors.

After the breakup of the Soviet Union, Khil struggled to survive on concert earnings in Russia and began to perform abroad to emigre audiences, taking on a regular spot at Parisian Russian-themed cabaret Raspoutine.

Putin sent his condolences to the singer's family in a telegram, calling him a "widely gifted, amazingly cheerful and positive person," and praising his "exceptional charisma and lyricism."

Khil, who was born in the western Russian city of Smolensk on September 4, 1934, and said he did not know the exact origins of his unusual surname, died in hospital in Saint Petersburg after suffering a stroke in April, Russian television reported.

The news of his death sent Khil's name and Mr. Trololo into the top worldwide trends on Twitter.

The Trololo song has been viewed more than 14 million times on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Z4m4lnjxkY


© 2012 AFP

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