The Russian singer and songwriter, Alexander Gradsky, made an epoch in Russian classical and rock music. He is considered a father-founder of the Russian rock. He sang at The Bolshoi Theatre and worked with such artists as Liza Minnelli and John Denver. He collaborated on films with Andrei Konchalovsky, Nikita Mikhalkov, and others. He taught at the Gnesin Music Academy, composed a rock opera Master and Margarita, and became the People’s Artist in 1999. He was officially married three times and had two children, and his last partner was 35 years younger, they also had two sons. He was single-minded, energetic, and ingenious. He was aptly nicknamed The Voice by his long-term friend, and indeed, in the last few years he was often on the panel of the Russian version of this famous musical show. And now he no longer is.
There comes the time when you begin to assess your age and experience not only by events in your personal life, but by also people who “accompanied” you on your way and their work. Scientists, artists, actors, musicians, public figures – they all become a part of you. And when they go, which is inevitable, you feel bereft of something infinitely more important than you could even appreciate.
The news state that in September this year Gradsky had a coronavirus (unconfirmed) but got over it and continued his work. He was again on the panel of The Voice, now in its 10th year. For the last episode of the show he arrived to the Ostankino TV centre in an ambulance and was clearly unwell but continued with his work. And then last night he had a cerebral infraction.
Take time to listen to this powerful Voice in memory of this great man and a fantastic singer, composer, and performer.
This video is an extract from a children’s animation, The Blue Puppy, about a little dog in search of friends. Thanks to an impressive vocal range, Gradsky sang several songs for this cartoon, but I chose the Song of a Sawfish that demonstrates the singer’s ability to perform comic, “character” songs.
When the world is drowning in rap, it is sometimes hard to explain to the younger audiences what music is. Or what distinguishes poetry from writing rhymed texts. Or how to sing poetry. How to sing like Alexander Gradsky and Muslim Magomaev, or Ella Fitzgerald and Andy Williams. In terms of marketing, it is obviously easier if you belong to a “genre”. The flip side is such that you begin to practise your art like others practise accountancy. You work 9-to-5, write rap or novels with the same storyline, then your “other life” begins. Of course, one’s artistic potential depends on the degree of talent. The problem is that marketing turns a talent into mediocrity by making it “focus” on a single genre or style. And this is why the true Artist today is the proverbial avis rara (“a rare bird” (Lat.)).
But do you know what a huge advantage you have as the Artist? You always have a listener (a reader, a viewer). When he is a child, he listens to your children’s songs. A youth listens to your songs about other youths. Your music, books, films, songs accompany people on their entire way through life. Some come and go, but Artists stay.
Of course, if the Artist leaves this world in the age of Ray Charles or Stephen Sondheim, you take it philosophically, especially if you have experienced the loss in your own life. But the younger the Artist, the more unfair is their exit in its untimeliness, especially with respect to their family, friends, and students. And it doesn’t matter how well you have learnt that everything happens at the right time…
Website of Gradsky-Hall, the musical venue founded by the musician himself
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