[UPDATED: Monday, June 4]
Eduard Khil, the Russian baritone better known as “Mr. Trololo,” passed away Monday after suffering a stroke and was thought to have suffered brain damage. Doctors said there were “no guarantees of recovery,” and after nearly a week in a coma, he passed away Monday morning at a St. Petersburg hospital, reported Russian state-news agency RIA Novosti.
The 77-year-old Khil was a Soviet stage performer whose charismatic singing career had faded by the 1990s. But one performance would live on to rejuvenate his stardom: ‘The Trololo Song,’ recorded in 1976, found a new life on YouTube in early 2010, making Khil an in-demand personality again.
The 34-year-old tune is titled Я очень рад, ведь я наконец возвращаюсь домой (roughly translated: “I Am So Happy to Finally Be Back Home”), but you don’t need to know Russian to understand it. That’s because, to paraphrase Fox News talk show host Bill O’Reilly, “There’s no words on it.” Indeed, the lyrics are unintelligible in any language, but needing something to call it, the Internet latched onto “Trololo,” a close approximation of its yodeling chorus.
The song, composed by Arkady Ostrovsky, was supposed to contain lyrics about a cowboy riding through the prairie, but the text was rumored to have been too controversial for socialist Russia. While it’s still unclear if the lyrics were forcibly banned by Soviet censors, Khil explained that the lyrics were simply not ready for primetime. “They could not be published,” he told LifeNews in 2010.
The video of Khil singing ‘Trololo’ became an instant YouTube hit, earning some two million views in a week. It was the epitome of campy Soviet nostalgia and at the same time something exceedingly alien — from Khil’s tacky brown polyester suit and fixed, worrying smile to his off-beat lip syncing and aimless strolling around on stage. The video was parodied by Stephen Colbert and sung by actor Christoph Waltz on Jimmy Kimmel Live. Khil’s new fans even started an online petition to get him on tour. While he never did embark on another singing excursion, he did take the stage on what appears to be a Russian Christmas special in 2012.
Remember, readers: his music will live on via the Internet forever. And ever and ever and ever.
This post, originally published on May 31, has been updated to reflect Mr. Khil’s passing on June 4.