Alexander Gradsky, one of Russia’s most famous singers, musicians, composers and teachers, died early Sunday morning in Moscow at the age of 72.
Gradsky’s career spanned more than half a century and ranged from composing and performing in the very first rock ‘n roll groups in the Soviet Union, to the opera “The Golden Rooster “to the Bolshoi Theater, to the music of dozens of films, to the composition of operas and ballets, to host television and radio programs, to teach at the Gnessin Academy of Music and to be one of the most appreciated coaches of the Russian popular television contest “The Voice”.
Gradsky grew up in the city of Kopeysk (Chelyabinsk oblast). Her father was an engineer and her mother was an actress, whose brother played in the Moiseyev dance troupe and brought back jazz and rock ‘n roll albums from his overseas tours. In his early teens, Gradsky played guitar and sang western rock ‘n roll. He played in three informal rock groups before forming his own, the Jesters (Скоморохи) in 1967 at the age of 18. After enrolling in the Gnessin Music Academy two years later, he continued to perform with the Jesters, now with new musicians, who became one of the first Russian rock groups allowed to perform live, at record albums and be broadcast on radio and later on television.
While Gradsky was still studying at the Academy, director Andrei Konchalovsky asked him to write the music for the film “A Lovers’ Romance”. Gradsky, a tenor with a span of over three octaves, sang all the male parts of the film. Two years later, he performed a composition entitled “How Young We Were” by Alexandra Pakhmutova and Nikolai Dobronravov for the film “My Love in Junior Year”. The song won the “Song-77” festival and remains one of Gradsky’s best known and popular songs.
During his career, Gradsky will mark more than 40 films and release dozens of albums. He has also composed several operas, including the rock opera “Stadium” in 1985 and an opera of “The Master and Margarita” by Mikhail Bulgakov. The opera, written in 2009, was not performed on stage but exists as a recording with a cast of some of Russia’s best singers and musicians. He also composed a rock ballet called “The Man” in 1988.
Gradsky has performed hundreds of times on stage, alone or with the Jesters and other musicians, singing rock ‘n roll or classical music, in the Soviet Union, Russia and the former republics, in Europe, in Asia and the United States In New York, he has performed at Carnegie Hall; in San Francisco and Berkely at a Grateful Dead concert; and in other venues with a range of artists, from Liza Minelli, John Denver and Dianne Warwick to Sammy Davis, Jr.
In 2012, Gradsky first served as a coach in the popular TV singing competition “The Voice”. Two years later, he founded his own musical theater in Moscow, “Gradsky Hall”, which featured performers from “The Voice” and other groups, musicals and performers.
In addition to numerous honors and awards for his work, in 1997 Gradsky was awarded the title “Deserving Artist of the Russian Federation, and in 1999 he was named” People’s Artist of the Russian Federation “.
Alexander Gradsky married three times and has two adult children from his marriage to Olga Fartysheva and two young sons from a long-term relationship with Marina Kotashenko. Gradsky’s health deteriorated after being ill with the coronavirus in September. On Saturday, he was rushed to hospital with a suspected stroke and died hours later.
The tributes have gone on radio and television almost continuously since his death, and President Putin has sent a condolence telegram to the singer’s family and friends.
On December 1, a memorial service will be held at Gradsky Hall. Alexander Gradsky will be buried in the Kuzminsky cemetery where his parents are buried.