Kobzon at a recent social event
|Birth name||Iosif Davidovich Kobzon|
September 11, 1937 |
Chasiv Yar, Donetsk Oblast, Ukraine, USSR
|Occupations||Singer, Deputy of the Russian State Duma|
As a boy he demonstrated a talent for singing, winning numerous regional singing contests. He reached the national finals on two separate occasions, appearing in concerts dedicated to Joseph Stalin - a significant honour at the time.
Despite his talent for singing, Kobzon went on to technical school to study geology and mining in Dnipropetrovsk, as this was considered a lucrative vocation in the Soviet Union following the Second World War. However, in 1959, following his 1956-1959 contact with professional music instructors in the Soviet Army where he was a member of the armies song and dance ensemble, he decided that music would be his preferred vocation.
In 1958, Kobzon officially started his singing career in Moscow, and enrolled to study at the Gnessin Institute. In the next few years he 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 repertoire 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 across six nations, winning first prize in Warsaw, Berlin and Budapest.
His popularity rose quickly, and demand for his singing saw him frequently performing two to three concerts a day.
His most popular hit song at the time was titled "A u nas vo dvore".
In 1983, Kobzon was expelled from the Communist Party and reprimanded for "political short sightedness," after he performed Jewish songs during an international friendship concert, which resulted in the Arab delegations leaving in protest.
However, the following year, (1984) his reputation was restored, as he was honored with the USSR State Prize.
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. He was also bestowed the rare honour of performing international concerts tours as a representative of USSR 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.
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 married three times. In 1965, he married 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 two children.
Kobzon has a reputation for his readiness to help others. He has earned enormous respect amongst Russians for committing substantial sums of his personal wealth to help thousands of Russia's poor and unfortunate, including the funding of numerous orphanages around the country.
In 2002, Kobzon is noted for risking his life as the key negotiator in the Moscow theater hostage crisis. His bravery resulted in a mother with three children and a citizen of the United Kingdom being rescued.
Kobzon has been active in Russian politics, since 1989. 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 2009 he was bestowed the rare award of Honorary Citizen of Moscow, becoming the 24th individual ever to be so honoured, and sharing this status with people such as Pavel Tretyakov, Prince Vladimir Galitzine and Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow.
To honour his remarkable musical, political and humanitarian achievements, in 2003, there was a statue of Joseph Kobzon erected near his birthplace, in Donetsk, Ukraine. Such an honour to be bestowed during one's lifetime is considered to be highly unique by any nation's standards, and has cemented Kobzon's popularity as a "living legend".
In 2007 Joseph Kobzon's name was entered into the Official Book of Russian Records as the most decorated artist in the country's history.
Honours and awards
- Order for Merit to the Fatherland 1st class (26 June 2012) - for outstanding contribution to culture and music;
- Order for Merit to the Fatherland 2nd class (21 September 2002) - for outstanding contribution to culture and music;
- Order for Merit for the Fatherland 3rd class (11 September 1997) - for his great personal contribution to the development of musical art;
- Order of Courage (30 December 2002) - for courage and dedication shown during the rescue of people in a situation involving a risk to life during an act of terrorism and hostage-taking at the Dubrovka Theatre in Moscow in October 2002;
- Order of Friendship of Peoples;
- Order of Glory (Azerbaijan) (2007) - for services to strengthen cultural ties between the Russian Federation and the Republic of Azerbaijan;
- Officer of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Hungary (2007);
- Ukrainian Order of Merit 1st class (3 July 2012) - for personal contribution to the socio-economic and cultural development of the area, professionalism, and to mark the 80th anniversary of Donetsk region;
- Ukrainian Order of Merit 2nd class (3 July 2002) - for personal contribution to the socio-economic and cultural development of the area, professionalism, and to mark the 70th anniversary of Donetsk region;
- Ukrainian Order of Merit 3rd class (18 February 2000) - a significant personal contribution to the development of art song, many years of fruitful creative and social activities;
- Dostyk order, 2nd class (Kazakhstan, 2008)
- Order of Holy Prince Daniel of Moscow, 2nd class (Russian Orthodox Church, 1998)
- Order of St. Sergius, 2nd class (Russian Orthodox Church, 2002)
- Order "For Merit" (Republic of Ingushetia, 2008)
- Jubilee Medal "In Commemoration of the 100th Anniversary since the Birth of Vladimir Il'ich Lenin"
- Medal "For Labour Valour"
- Medal "In Commemoration of the 1500th Anniversary of Kiev"
- Medal "Veteran of Labour"
- Jubilee Medal "300 Years of the Russian Navy"
- Medal "In Commemoration of the 850th Anniversary of Moscow"
- Jubilee Medal "60 Years of Victory in the Great Patriotic War 1941-1945"
- Medal "For Strengthening Military Cooperation" (Defence Ministry)
- Medal "200 Years of the Ministry of Internal Affairs" (MVD)
- Medal "200 Years of the Ministry of Defence"
- Medal "For Services to the Stavropol Territory" (Stavropol Territory, June 2008) - for outstanding contribution to the development of art and culture, preservation and promotion of the best examples of patriotic songs of Russia
- Medal "Glory of Adygea" (2008)
- Medal of Merit for the Chechen Republic
- Medal "Astana"
- People's Artist of USSR (1987)
- People's Artist of RSFSR (1980)
- People's Artist of Ukraine (1991)
- Honoured Artist of the RSFSR (1973)
- People's Artist of Dagestan ASSR (1974)
- Honoured Artist of the Chechen-Ingush Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic (1964)
- Honoured Artist of Adygea (1992)
- Honoured Artist of the Karachay–Cherkess Republic (2008)
- People's Artist of North Ossetia–Alania (2008)
- Honorary Member of the Russian Academy of Arts
- Honoured Worker of the Federal Bailiff Service
Kobzon is an honorary citizen of 28 cities: Anapa, Saratov (1998), Donetsk (2007), Bishkek, Dnepropetrovsk, Kramatorsk, Noginsk, Poltava, Slavic (1999), Chasiv Yar, Cherkessk, Artemovsk, Horlivka and others. He is also an honorary citizen of the Saratov Oblast, Ust-Orda Buryat Autonomous Okrug (abolished 1 January 2008) and the Transbaikal Oblast (23 September 2010).
On 31 March 2009, Kobzon was awarded the title of Honorary Citizen of Moscow - "for his services and contribution to the organization and development of national culture, long-term activities designed to meet the challenges of the patriotic and cultural education of the Russian people, as well as charitable activity in the city of Moscow and other Russian regions".
- USSR State Prize (1984) - for concert programs 1980-1983
- Lenin Komsomol Prize (1976) - for concert programs 1974-1975, active propaganda Soviet Komsomol songs
- Russian Federal Security Service Award "for creative contribution to the patriotic education of Russian citizens" (2009)
- Other honours
- Sculpture in Donetsk by Alexander Joseph Kobzon Rukavishnikova (30 August 2003)
- Diploma of the Government of the Kabardino-Balkar Republic (2008)
A comprehensive list of all 300+ honours awarded to Joseph Kobzon can be viewed at http://iosifkobzon.ru/activity/rank/ (in Russian).
Refer to *Official site of Iosif Kobzon
'Russia's Frank Sinatra'
Considering Kobzon's career, personality, spirit and singing style, many say that he is Russia's answer to the U.S. crooner Frank Sinatra. The parallels between the two legends of the entertainment world are so uncanny, that Kobzon has been branded the nickname of 'Russia's Frank Sinatra'.
Besides their overwhelmingly successful singing careers, both Sinatra and Kobzon used their popularity towards an active involvement in politics. As a result, to counter their influence in the political arena, they both fell victim to smear campaigns about their respective involvement with the mafia.
Kobzon was already a legendary personality in the music world when the Soviet Union collapsed Soon after, the country's political and social affairs fell under the influence of criminal activity with the rise of organised crime groups (later known as the 'Russian mafia'). Kobzon never denied knowing some alleged mafia members, stating that he was an entertainer for the people irrespective of their politics, nationality, religion or profession.
For both Sinatra and himself such acquaintances were an unavoidable symptom of being a popular entertainer at a time when organized crime was a prevalent force in their respective countries.
In 1995, Kobzon was denied entry to the United States due to the mafia connection allegations. Challenging the visa denial was impossible since U.S. consular decisions are not subject to judicial review.
However, no formal accusations, investigation results, or evidence in support of the visa denial were published by the American authorities, nor has such information been released to Kobzon himself.
Due to a lack of available facts on the matter, rumours began to emerge about Kobzon's possible involvement in mafia-style activities, including arms-trafficking, gambling, pharmaceuticals, nightclubs, casinos and other shady acitivities. Similar rumours existed about Sinatra's interests in the mafia world.
The parallels between Kobzon and Sinatra quickly captured the imagination of audiences, and soon became the focus of media articles, books and novels claiming to have detailed knowledge of Russia's gangster world based on inside information obtained from the CIA.
Kobzon has since sued numerous publications for propagating unsubstantiated rumours, presenting a multitude of personal and professional references from the likes of Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev, who have attested to his impeccable reputation and great honour.
Kobzon explains that books and newspaper articles written about his association with the Russian mafia are almost invariably authored by unknown individuals who have taken the opportunity of using his name in attempt to make a name for themselves.
In defending his reputation, Kobzon considered suing the U.S. government arguing that by denying visa applicants recourse to judicial protection, the powers of U.S. consular services contradict the Separation of Powers principles of government, and are, therefore, open to abuse by individual government organs. Kobzon submitted that the visa denial stemmed from allegations contained in a fabricated information file supplied to the Americans by Yeltsin's henchmen, who 'used' the Americans in an engineered attempt at Kobzon's character-assassination. This was a protective measure employed against Kobzon by political powers at the time who were threatened by both his enormous popularity and independent political alignment.
In April 2012, the US once again denied Kobzon an entry visa citing the same grounds as in 1995. Kobzon queried the logic of the latest US decision, pointing out that if the US had any evidence against him, which was in some way pertinent to the country's security, they should be trying to bring him into the country to face questions, not trying to keep him out.
Kobzon has enjoyed the freedom of travel to most other countries around the world, and claims that his lifelong achievements are evidence of his true nature. He considers the US visa decision an act of reckless politics that are no longer relevant.
- "Moscow newspaper lists top Melodia pop artists". Billboard. 26 December 1981. p. 76. Retrieved 16 February 2012.
- Red Stars:Personality and the Soviet Popular Song, 1955-1991 by David MacFadyen, McGill-Queen's University Press, 2001, ISBN 0773521062
- Kobzon, Joseph (December 16, 2001). Interview with Maria Podolskaya. "Not Enough of Her For All" (in Russian). Izvestia. Moscow. http://izvestia.ru/news/255908. Retrieved October 25, 2012.
- Ukaze of President of Ukraine
- Interview - Rolling Stones Magazine (Russian) 26 December 2007 - http://rollingstone.ru/articles/music/article/3479.html
- http://www.jta.org/1998/12/03/life-religion/features/russias-frank-sinatra-protests-communist-activists-anti-semitism, http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/163285#.UgfHRKCkSlJ, http://www.themoscowtimes.com/news/article/kobzon-ready-to-take-one-last-crack-at-us/454734.html, http://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/ukraine-prepares-trial-against-yulia-tymoshenko-on-murder-charges-a-884812.html#ref=rss
- Awarded People's Artist of USSR in 1987 and People's Artist of RSFSR in 1980.
- Nathan Toohey (April 26, 2012). "Kobzon denied US visa". The Moscow News. Retrieved 17 June 2012.
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