Eduard Khil was a beloved Soviet crooner who only won sudden international stardom two years ago when a 1976 video of him singing “trololo” instead of the song’s censored words became a global Internet hit.
He had been hospitalized in St. Petersburg since a stroke in early April that left him with severe brain damage. The stroke was the cause of his death, said Tatyana Mamedova of Petersburg-Kontsert, which organized Khil’s concerts.
Khil was a top Soviet performer during the 1960s and the 1970s, but his star began to fade in the late 1980s as musical tastes changed and the Soviet Union opened up to the West.
In 2010, a video of him performing “I Am Glad, ‘Cause I’m Finally Returning Back Home” in 1976 was uploaded onto YouTube and quickly got more than 2 million hits.
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.
Khil said in an interview that he was told to change the words if he wanted to perform the song, so he sang a vocalized version that came out sounding like “trololo.” It was an original approach that did not seem to attract much attention at the time or inspire others to follow his example.
After the video became a YouTube hit, the crooner’s new international fans petitioned to get him on a world tour. The baritone said he was flattered by the attention, but puzzled that his song became popular only three decades after it had been released.
Khil’s name, in Russian and English, was trending worldwide on Twitter on Monday.
The international fame also raised his profile in Russia during the final years of his life.
Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed his condolences to Khil’s wife and son.
He will be buried at the Smolenkskoye cemetery in the city. The time of the burial has not been set yet.