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Leonid Utesov

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Leonid Osipovich Utesov or Leonid Utyosov (Russian: Леонид Утёсов); real name Lazar (Leyzer) Iosifovich Vaysbeyn or Weissbein (Russian: Ла́зарь (Ле́йзер) Ио́сифович Вайсбе́йн) (21 March [O.S. 9 March] 1895, Odessa – 9 March 1982, Moscow), was a famous Soviet jazz singer and comic actor of Jewish origin, who became the first pop singer to be awarded the prestigious title of People’s Artist of the USSR in 1965.

Leonid Utyosov was brought up in Odessa (in present day Ukraine) and attended the Faig School of Commerce, from which he dropped out and joined the Borodanov Circus troupe as an acrobat. He started his stage career in 1911 in Kremenchuk, then returned to Odessa, changed his artistic name to Leonid Utyosov, and performed as a stand up comedian with the Rosanov troupe and with the Rishelyavsky Theatre. In 1917, he won a singing competition in Gomel, Belarus, then performed in Moscow.
In the 1920s, he moved to Leningrad and set up one of the first Soviet jazz bands. In Leningrad, he began collaboration with the popular composer, Isaak Dunayevsky, which turned out to be a breakthrough for both artists. At that time, Utyosov built a band of the finest musicians available in Leningrad, and created a style all his own - a jazz show with stand up comedy, which blended several styles, ranging from Russian folk songs to a variety of international cosmopolitan genres. In 1928, Utyosov toured Europe and attended performances of American jazz bands in Paris, which influenced his own style.

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