There's no way you can't love Mr. Trololo. For two minutes and 42 seconds, a Russian singer with a goofy, enormous smile plastered on his face slowly meanders around a stage singing seemingly pure gibberish. Even though Mr. Trololo actually came about as a result of censorship, few love the video as it is: A happy-go-lucky man singing a funny-sounding, nonsense song.
Mr. Trololo himself, Soviet singer Eduard Khil, died on Monday. Khil had been hospitalized since early April, when he suffered a stroke that resulted in massive brain damage. Tatyana Memedova of the Petersburg-Konsert, which helped organized Khil's concerts, said that Khil's stroke was the cause of his death. He was 77.
Even though many will remember Khil for Mr. Trololo, which has amassed more than 12.2 million hits on YouTube since being uploaded in November 2009, many Russians will remember Khil as being one of the top performers in the Soviet Union during the 1960s and 1970s. Even though Khil wasn't nearly as popular in the following years, it would be a video he performed in 1976 that would cement his international fame decades later.
In 1976, Khil was ready to perform a video written by Soviet composer Arkady Ostrovsky called I am Glad, 'Cause I'm Finally Returning Back Home. The song was about a cowboy that rode across a prairie while his wife knitted stockings for him back home, but at the time, Soviet censors felt that this message made Americans look too warm during the Cold War. Khil said that the Soviet censors demanded he change the words if he wanted to perform the song at all, so he created a version that ended up sounding like trololo.
Originally, we had lyrics written for this song but they were poor, Khil told Life News back in 2010. I mean, they were good, but we couldn't publish them at that time. They contained words like these: I'm riding my stallion on a prairie, so-and-so mustang, and my beloved Mary is thousand miles away knitting a stocking for me. Of course, we failed to publish it at that time, and we, Arkady Ostrovsky and I, decided to make it a vocalisation. But the essence remained in the title. The song is very playful - it has no lyrics, so we had to make up something for people would listen to it, and so this was an interesting arrangement.
Ostrovsky's son, Mikhail, tells another version of this story:
Nobody banned its lyrics, but my father just composed the music during the period of his disagreement with Lev Oshanin, Ostrovsky said. The latter told him that the lyrics are more important in a song and that a composer is nothing without a lyricist. So Dad told him during the argument, 'Well, I don't need your verses at all, I'll manage without them.'
Nobody picked up on the video at the time, merely dismissing the corny, 70s style video as passé. But about 30 years later, Khil's grandson told his grandfather that one of his old videos had been uploaded online and had been viewed more than two million times.
Grandad, your song has become a hit again, I saw it on the Internet, Khil recalled his grandson as saying.
At first, Khil was confused about his newfound fame. Where were all these journalists 40 years ago? Khil reportedly asked his son.
He thinks maybe someone is trying to make a fool of him, Khil's son said.
After a short while, Khil's confusion subsided and he embraced his newfound international attention decades after his initial run at fame. But while his fans petitioned him to perform a Mr. Trololo World Tour, Khil kindly declined.
From his grandson he learned that T-shirts and mugs with his image had become available in the West, and he joked that he never earned a kopeck from them, said Mikhail Sadchikov, a music journalist out of St. Petersburg who personally knew Khil. He was also very optimistic, positive and ironic at the same time.
Khil said he enjoyed a number of parodies performed of Mr. Trololo, but he said his favorite was a performance by Oscar-winning Austrian actor Christoph Waltz, famous for his role in Inglourious Basterds.
In the final years of his life, Khil enjoyed a number of TV appearances, interviews, and concerts in Russia after achieving his newfound fame online. Russian President Vladimir Putin has already expressed his condolences to Khil's wife and son.
Khil will be buried at the Smolenkskoye Cemetery in St. Petersburg. The date and time of the burial has not yet been announced.
Below is Khil's famous Mr. Trololo video, as well as Christoph Waltz' version of the YouTube hit.
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