Shulzhenko started singing with jazz and pop bands in the late 1920s. She rose to fame in the late 1930s with her version of Sebastian Yradier's La Paloma, subsequently covered by Pugachova. In 1939, she was awarded at the first all-Soviet competition of pop singers.
During World War II, Shulzhenko performed about a thousand concerts for Soviet soldiers in besieged Leningrad and elsewhere. The lyrics of one of her prewar songs, The Blue Headscarf, were adapted so as to suit wartime realities. Another iconic song of the Great Patriotic War, Let's Smoke, was later used by Vladimir Menshov in his Oscar-winning movie Moscow Does Not Believe In Tears. In 1945, Shulzhenko was awarded the Order of the Red Star.
On April 10, 1976 Shulzhenko performed to enraptured audience in the Column Hall of the House of Unions in what would become her most famous concert. She became the first female pop singer to be named People's Artist of the USSR in 1971.
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