Monday, June 11, 2012

Who was that masked man: Mr. Trololo leaves our earthly plane

When a writer in my critique group called our collective attention to -- a video clip of a strange Russian baritone singing ... who knew what -- I was the only one to respond. Steven Long wrote "Seriously. I am obsessed with this. I believe it holds the meaning to all things." I responded: "Undead. Hands down." From the rest of our eight or nine then-members? Not a peep.

Eduard Khil, the seemingly strange Russian baritone, shuffled off this mortal coil a week ago today.

In case you missed the Russian pop singer when his 1976 performance of, as Wikipedia puts it, a non-lexical vocable version of the song "I Am Glad, 'Cause I'm Finally Returning Back Home" went viral on the intertubes 34 years later, in 2010, here's the Russian TeleRadio Worldwide posting of the clip on YouTube:

To be sure there's more to Khil's life and story than a fewer-than-three minutes video ... but with nothing else to go on in 2010 I thought simply that the guy beat any scary clown I'd ever seen or heard of, hands down. The patently forced facial expressions, the vampire teeth, the stiff body-language attempting to convey some creepily inexplicable happiness, the nonsense syllables (a.k.a. non-lexical vocals), that awful brown suit......

And yet. There was something seriously compelling about the video. I watched it many times, an embarrassing number I suspect, luckily I didn't count. I wouldn't say I wholly bought into Mr. Long's tongue-in-cheek belief that the Trololololo clip held the meaning to all things ... but it sure held my attention for a few weeks there in early 2010.

What was that song about, anyway? From the Washington Post's obituary last week:
The music was written by well-known Soviet composer Arkady Ostrovsky, but the original lyrics were about a cowboy riding across a prairie while his sweetheart knitted stockings for him, a sentimental view of America that didn’t sit well with Soviet censors during the Cold War.

The NY Times explained the suppression of the song's lyrics this way:
In an interview with state news media in 2010, Mr. Khil said he and the song’s composer, Arkady Ostrovsky, pulled its original lyrics out of fear that the Soviet authorities would consider it pro-American and ban it. The lyrics described "John on his mustang traveling across the expanses of the prairie to his beloved Mary, who lives in Kentucky, waiting for him and knitting wool socks."

When the two could not find suitable replacement lyrics, he said, Mr. Ostrovsky exclaimed, "If that’s how it is, let it be a vocalization!"

All things must pass, as George Harrison once sang. Eduard, we never really knew you. R.I.P.

Related posts on One Finger Typing:
Melancholy popular music: Lana Del Rey and her antecedents
Take a sad song
Are you a lyrics person?


  1. Khil had no idea what was going on until his grandson ran in and said "grandpa, you're famous!" There's some nice video out there of people asking him about it - he's clearly pleased and amused.

  2. @Steven -- He looks much more real in recent video than he did in the '76 clip. I guess EK wasn't a harbinger of the Zombie Apocalpyse after all.