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Biography

  • Born

    11 September 1937

  • Born In

    Chasiv Yar, Donets'ka Oblast', Ukraine

  • Died

    30 August 2018 (aged 80)

Iosif (Joseph) Davydovich Kobzon (Russian: Иосиф Давыдович Кобзон; born September 11, 1937 — died August 30, 2018) is an iconic Soviet crooner, who has been acclaimed as "the official voice of the Soviet Union".

Kobzon was born to Jewish parents in the mining town of Chasiv Yar, Ukraine.

As a boy he demonstrated a talent for singing, winning many of the regional and national singing contests, including one in which he performed in front of Joseph Stalin. See official site of Iosif Kobzon

Kobzon went on to technical school to study geology and mining, as this was considered a lucrative vocation in the Soviet Union following the Second World War. However, following his contact with professional music instructors in the Soviet Army in 1956, Kobzon decided that music would be his preferred vocation.

In 1958 Kobzon officially started his singing career in Moscow, and chose to study at the Gnessin Institute. In the next few years Kobzon made valuable contacts in Moscow's entertainment world, and was eventually given a chance by composer Arkady Ostrovski to perform some of his music.

Initially, he performed in a duet with the tenor Viktor Kokhno, but was eventually offered a solo repetoir by many of the outstanding composers of the time such as Mark Fradkin, Alexander Dolukhanian and Yan Frenkel.

In 1962, he recorded his first LP which included songs written by Aleksandra Pakhmutova.

In 1964 he triumphed at the International Song Contest in Sopot, Poland, (watch video) and in the following year he took part in the "Friendship" contest held in six nations, winning fist prize in Warsaw, Berlin and Budapest.

His popularity rose quickly, and demand for his singing saw him frequently performing two to three concerts in a day. His most popular hit song at the time was titled "In Our Yard" (watch video)

During Leonid Brezhnev's time in office (1964–82), there was hardly an official concert where Kobzon didn't take part, and in 1980 he was made People's Artist of the USSR.

In 1983, Kobzon was expelled from the Communist Party and reprimanded for his support of Israel (a country which had no diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union) and a performance of Jewish songs on stage.

However, the following year, (1984) he was honored with the USSR State Prize.

Kobzon was married three times. In 1965 to the singer Veronika Kruglova; then in 1969 Kobzon married Lyudmila Gurchenko, one of the best known comic actresses of the Soviet cinema. In 1971 he married his current wife Ninel Drizina with whom he had 2 children.

Considering Kobzon's career and singing style, many say that he is Russia's answer to the U.S. crooner Frank Sinatra.

His best known song is "Instants" from the legendary Soviet TV series "Seventeen Instants of Spring" (1973). (watch video of "Instants" performed in concert)

Joseph Kobzon appeared with solo concerts in most cities of the former USSR. As a representative of USSR he was bestowed the rare honour of performing in concerts tours in United States, Panama, Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia, Uruguay, Costa Rica, Argentina, Israel, Republic of the Congo, Zaire, Angola, Nigeria, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Germany, Greece, and Finland.

Throughout his career, he has shared the stage with many Western superstars; the likes of Liza Minnelli and Julio Iglesias.

In 1986, he was the first celebrity to visit and perform in the town of Chernobyl to cheer the nuclear reactor rescuers. Since then, Kobzon has performed on many occasions in disaster areas, and military hot-spots such as Afghanistan during the Soviet-Afghan war, and Chechnya.

Although, Joseph Kobzon officially ended his international touring career in 1997, he continues to appear in regular concerts before audiences around the world, and is frequently seen on Russian television to date.

Kobzon was born to Jewish parents in the mining town of Chasiv Yar, Ukraine.

As a boy he demonstrated a talent for singing, winning many of the regional and national singing contests, including one in which he performed in front of Joseph Stalin. See official site of Iosif Kobzon

Kobzon went on to technical school to study geology and mining, as this was considered a lucrative vocation in the Soviet Union following the Second World War. However, following his contact with professional music instructors in the Soviet Army in 1956, Kobzon decided that music would be his preferred vocation.

In 1958 Kobzon officially started his singing career in Moscow, and chose to study at the Gnessin Institute. In the next few years Kobzon made valuable contacts in Moscow's entertainment world, and was eventually given a chance by composer Arkady Ostrovski to perform some of his music.

Initially, he performed in a duet with the tenor Viktor Kokhno, but was eventually offered a solo repetoir by many of the outstanding composers of the time such as Mark Fradkin, Alexander Dolukhanian and Yan Frenkel.

In 1962, he recorded his first LP which included songs written by Aleksandra Pakhmutova.

In 1964 he triumphed at the International Song Contest in Sopot, Poland, (watch video) and in the following year he took part in the "Friendship" contest held in six nations, winning fist prize in Warsaw, Berlin and Budapest.

His popularity rose quickly, and demand for his singing saw him frequently performing two to three concerts in a day. His most popular hit song at the time was titled "In Our Yard" (watch video)

During Leonid Brezhnev's time in office (1964–82), there was hardly an official concert where Kobzon didn't take part, and in 1980 he was made People's Artist of the USSR.

In 1983, Kobzon was expelled from the Communist Party and reprimanded for his support of Israel (a country which had no diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union) and a performance of Jewish songs on stage.

However, the following year, (1984) he was honored with the USSR State Prize.

Kobzon was married three times. In 1965 to the singer Veronika Kruglova; then in 1969 Kobzon married Lyudmila Gurchenko, one of the best known comic actresses of the Soviet cinema. In 1971 he married his current wife Ninel Drizina with whom he had 2 children.

Considering Kobzon's career and singing style, many say that he is Russia's answer to the U.S. crooner Frank Sinatra.

His best known song is "Instants" from the legendary Soviet TV series "Seventeen Instants of Spring" (1973). (watch video of "Instants" performed in concert)

Joseph Kobzon appeared with solo concerts in most cities of the former USSR. As a representative of USSR he was bestowed the rare honour of performing in concerts tours in United States, Panama, Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia, Uruguay, Costa Rica, Argentina, Israel, Republic of the Congo, Zaire, Angola, Nigeria, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Germany, Greece, and Finland.

Throughout his career, he has shared the stage with many Western superstars; the likes of Liza Minnelli and Julio Iglesias.

In 1986, he was the first celebrity to visit and perform in the town of Chernobyl to cheer the nuclear reactor rescuers. Since then, Kobzon has performed on many occasions in disaster areas, and military hot-spots such as Afghanistan during the Soviet-Afghan war, and Chechnya.

Although, Joseph Kobzon officially ended his international touring career in 1997, he continues to appear in regular concerts before audiences around the world, and is frequently seen on Russian television to date.

In 1995, Kobzon was denied entry to the United States due to allegations that he had some links with members of the Russian mafia. Challenging these allegation was impossible, since U.S. visa decisions are not subject to judicial review.

Shortly afterwards, Kobzon attempted to sue the U.S. government arguing that the power of U.S. consular services in denying entry visas without the applicant having a right of appeal or recourse to judicial protection is contrary to the Separation of Powers model of government, and can, therefore, be abused by government organs.

Kobzon also submitted that the denial was based on rumours and allegations, stemming from a fabricated information file supplied to the Americans by Yeltsin's henchmen, who 'used' the Americans in an engineered attempt at his character-assassination. See "Kobzon’s US visa denial – Character-Assassination Without Recourse to Justice".

No formal allegations, investigation results, or evidence in support of the visa denial were ever presented to Kobzon by the American authorities, and Kobzon has enjoyed the freedom of travel to most other countries around the world.

Kobzon claims that his life-long achievements are evidence of his true nature, and considers the US visa decision as act of reckless politics that is now outdated and irrelevant.

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