Yuri Luzhkov, Mayor of MoscowThe USSR, Russia, Moscow – the three historical addresses, three colossal phenomena that had, and still retain, the singer Joseph Kobzon as part of their soul. Joseph Kobzon the politician. Joseph Kobzon the personality.
He is one of those people in the capital whom everybody regards as their friend, so intimately, irrevocably and naturally have his songs taken root in the life of Moscow. The Day of the City, Victory Day, thousands of solo concerts and grand concerts for us Muscovites, teleshows, music CDs – Kobzon’s voice accompanies us all the time but never once did this voice, the voice of an artiste and a citizen, sound listlessly, without excitement, without passion. He does not “perform” songs, he lives by and through them, and this is why he has mastery of genuine emotions, poignant lyricism and philosophical depths.
Joseph Kobzon as a singer has created the largest anthology of Soviet songs. In the murky times of radical changes, he, unlike some of his colleagues, continued to proudly call himself a People’s Artist of the USSR. Those songs, songs of war and victory, songs of Gagarin’s ilk, songs of great love for the Motherland remained with us because he understood their enormous civil and cultural value in the same way as Muscovites of various generations understand it.
In the new times, the country saw him in Afghanistan and Chechnya, in Chernobyl and in a far-away provincial town, on the country’s major and most ordinary stages. There were occasions when singing had to be done from the bonnet of a tank. And from a ship deck and in the protective shade of APCs. The great culture of the country, its spiritual charge, its service to the people rather than to an elite circle of connoisseurs and aesthetic snobs – this is what Kobzon is about.
A big talent is great because it is not locked in the hermetic confines of its creativity. We are aware, we can feel the heat of his work at the State Duma where Kobzon’s “power efficiency” as an MP goes off scale. The Duma Cultural Committee is no sinecure as the concerns here are not to do with your own tours but with destitute museums and libraries, orphanages or veterans of national culture who have refused to give up their principles and perhaps failed to fit into the “cultural market”.
Proactive human generosity is not in this case a new type of Quixotic behaviour but a deliberate civil position, which is why it is hard to think of an authority or an office that could make the MP Kobzon quail. Others quail when confronted by him, this does happen and is not such a rare occasion. Bureaucrats quail, all sorts of wheelers and dealers of the cultural realm cower, pen-pushers back down. Ministers appreciate that Kobzon means business rather than seeking a bit of extra publicity…
His career being packed full with genuine creative achievements, Joseph Kobzon has never been wanting attention, some times of exceedingly critical nature, both in his own country and abroad. The Law on the Protection of the Honour and Dignity of the Russian Citizen, this long-suffering and badly needed piece of legislation initiated by Kobzon, is in effect part of the Russian answer to an onslaught by the inveterate overseas democracy, which never tires of searching for a speck in our Russian eye while blithely ignoring logs in their own ….
Kobzon is not a man of no faults, no, he isn’t. Some times he will go into the fifth gear when the issue can be tackled on a routine basis. This is because he is not indifferent. Keeping pace with him is no picnic but he has the dignity of a hard worker, which explains a lot.
The man is seeking for the truth in art and in life, in work and in everyday being. He is seeking for the meaning of the great turnaround that took place in our times. He suffers torments and creates his epoch. He has taken time to write an interesting book. It is a book by a great artiste, an outstanding individual, an honest witness of difficult times. True, there is no such thing as easy times. Yet your heart feels lighter and the world looks brighter when Kobzon is singing.
You must sing, Joseph. You must.