Iosif (Joseph) Davydovich Kobzon (Russian: Ио́сиф Давы́дович Кобзо́н; 11 September 1937 — 30 August 2018) was a Russian singer, known for his crooner style. Iosif Kobzon (Иосиф Кобзон) 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 Moscow's Gnesin School of Music. 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, 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.
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 has 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).
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, Congo, Zair, 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 occassions 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.
Since 1989, Kobzon has been active in the Russian politics. He is probably the most experienced Russian MP, and also the one who gets reelected with the largest margin in the country's history. Between 2005 and 2007, he was the head of the State Duma's culture committee.
In 2002 Kobzon is also noted for being the first negotiator to risk his own life in rescuing a mother with 3 children and a citizen of the United Kingdom during the Moscow theater hostage crisis.
Kobzon has a reputation for his readiness to help others; it is said that he has helped thousands of Russia's poor and unfortunate, and personally funds orphanages. His reputation has earned him honorary doctorate degrees from numerous Russian universities, honorary residency in countless Russian cities, and hundreds of State awards and prizes.
To honour his remarkable musical, political and humanitarian achievements he has been awarded Russia's highest State Decorations; and in 2003 there was a statue of Joseph Kobzon erected near his birthplace, in Donetsk, Ukraine.
In 2007 Joseph Kobzon's name was entered into the Official Book of Russian Records as the most awarded artist in the country's history.
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