Tapio Rautavaara

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Tapio Rautavaara

Kaj Tapio ("Tapsa") Rautavaara (8 March 1915, Northern Pirkkala – 25 September 1979, Helsinki) was a Finnish athlete, singer, and film actor.

Early life[edit]

Rautavaara (right) in 1931

Tapio Rautavaara was raised by his single mother and his formal education ended at the elementary level. By the outbreak of the Finnish Winter War in 1939, he had worked as a roadworker, a lumberjack and as a storeman at a co-operative mill. His national military service was with the Finnish Navy in the mid 1930s.

War years[edit]

When the Winter War broke out the Navy was not very active in the war and Rautavaara was allowed to continue working at the Osuustukkukauppa (OTK) mill. However, when the Continuation War broke out he was called to the army and he was ordered to be the first year of the war in the front line.

In summer 1942 Rautavaara was transferred to the war entertainment troops and worked for two years as a radio journalist on the frontier based Aunus Radio. During this time he became known to the troops. In the summer of 1944 the Finns had to pull out from East Karelia and Rautavaara’s radio career ended.


Music career[edit]

Rautavaara was one of the most beloved singers in Finland. Some of his famous songs include Isoisän olkihattu (Grandfather’s Straw Hat), Reppu ja reissumies (The Backpack and the Traveler), Korttipakka (The Deck of Cards), Lapin jenkka (The Lappland Schottische), Juokse sinä humma (Run, Horse, Run), Kulkuri ja joutsen (The Tramp and the Swan), Tuopin jäljet (Marks of the Tankard), Sininen uni (Blue Dream) and Anttilan keväthuumaus (Anttila’s Spring Fever).

After the war Rautavaara met Reino Helismaa, who composed and made the lyrics to Reissumies ja kissa (The Traveler and the Cat), which became Rautavaara’s first hit. Composer Toivo Kärki joined this team, which produced over the next ten years many popular songs.

In addition, Rautavaara composed and wrote the lyrics for many of his records. Rautavaara received gold records for the songs Isoisän olkihattu (Grandpa's Strawhat), Vain merimies voi tietää (Only a Sailor Could Know) and Häävalssi (The Wedding Waltz). The first song was written and composed by Rautavaara, the second one was composed by him and the lyrics were written by Heikki Saari.

Rautavaara, Helismaa and Esa Pakarinen toured Finland together at the end of the 1940s and the beginning of the 1950s. The touring stopped due to personal problems, but Rautavaara continued to record songs with Helismaa's lyrics until Helismaa's death in 1965.

By the time of his death in 1979 Rautavaara had recorded 310 songs.

Sports career[edit]

Rautavaara (left) runs with Volmari Iso-Hollo in 1951

Rautavaara was also a very talented athlete. He became the Olympic Champion in the javelin at the 1948 Summer Olympics in London with the result of 69.77 meters and competed successfully in many international javelin competitions. Furthermore, he won a bronze medal with the result of 66.40 meters in the 1946 European Championships in Athletics in Oslo.

He also received the gold medal in the Finnish team in the archery World Championships of 1958.

Rautavaara also won the Finnish Championship in the javelin (1944—45 and 1947—49) and in the archery in 1955.

Acting career[edit]

Rautavaara was cast as the protagonist in numerous Finnish films, and was also supposedly a candidate for the part of Tarzan after Johnny Weissmuller had quit his career.

Later years[edit]

The peak of Rautavaara’s popularity was in the 1950s, stretching into the early years of the 1960s. After that, his music was left in the shadow of Rautalanka and tango music and the popularity of the television. He continued to perform regularly, however, right up until his death, even though his gigs in the 1970s were for smaller audiences, like in department stores and topping out ceremonies.

Death and tributes[edit]

On 25 September 1979 Tapio Rautavaara slipped and fell at the Tikkurila Swimming Center in Vantaa and hit his head on the floor. He was taken to a nearby health center, where his injuries were not taken seriously, as staff believed him to be drunk. His head was bandaged and he was sent home. The next night, he died as a result of a cerebral hemorrhage at his home in Oulunkylä, Helsinki. He was buried in Malmi, Helsinki.


A memorial by Veikko Myller entitled (Kulkurin uni A Vagabond’s Dream) to the memory of Rautavaara is located in the market square in downtown Oulunkylä, the district of Helsinki, where Rautavaara lived most of his life.

TV documentary and movie[edit]

Peter von Bagh created a TV documentary on Rautavaara entitled Tapsa at the time of Rautavaara's death in 1979. Timo Koivusalo used Rautavaara's and Helismaa's tours as the basis for his movie Kulkuri ja joutsen in 1999.


In spring 2007 the Nokia Workers’ theater presented a play entitled Sininen uni (The Blue Dream), which was based on his life.

Rautavaara's influence on later groups[edit]

Ville Valo, the frontman of the Finnish rock band HIM, regards Rautavaara as his greatest idol in Finnish music.

Rautavaara's most renowned recordings[edit]

  • Päivänsäde ja menninkäinen (The Sunbeam And The Troll), 1949/1965
  • Reissumies ja kissa (The Tramp and the Cat), 1949
  • Kulkuri ja joutsen (The Tramp and the Swan), 1950
  • Isoisän olkihattu (Grandfathers Strawhat), 1951/1963
  • Ontuva Eriksson (Limping Eriksson), 1951
  • Sininen uni (Blue Dream), 1952
  • Juokse sinä humma (Run, Horse), 1953
  • Kulkuriveljeni Jan (My Drifter Brother Jan), 1956
  • Yölinjalla, (I Walk the Line), 1962
  • Tuopin jäljet (The Marks of My Tankard), 1963
  • En päivääkään vaihtaisi pois (I Wouldn't Change A Day), 1979

Rautavaara's filmography[edit]

Publicity photograph for Song of Smuggler from 1952.
  • Vain sinulle (1945) (Only for you)
  • Synnin jäljet (1946) (Marks of sin)
  • Kuudes käsky (1947) (Sixth order)
  • Kultamitalivaimo (1947)
  • Sinut minä tahdon (1949) (I Want You)
  • Aila, Pohjolan tytär (1951) (Aila, Daughter of North)
  • Rion yö (1951) (Night of Rio)
  • Salakuljettajan laulu (1952) (Song of smuggler)
  • Pekka Puupää (1953)
  • 2 hauskaa vekkulia (1953) (2 funny guys)
  • Me tulemme taas (1953) (We are coming again)
  • Kummituskievari (1954)
  • Veteraanin voitto (1955)
  • Villi Pohjola (1955) (Wild North)
  • Kaunis Kaarina (1955)
  • Kahden ladun poikki (1958)
  • Molskis, sanoi Eemeli, molskis! (1960)
  • Tähtisumua (1961)
  • X-Paroni (1964)
  • Anna (1970)

See also[edit]


External links[edit]