The Soviet crooner whose wordless tune created an Internet meme has passed away at the age of 77. Eduard Khil was hospitalized in late May after suffering a stroke and was thought to have suffered brain damage. He died Monday morning at a hospital in St. Petersburg.
His gleeful, warbling rendition of the minor Russian hit “I Am So Happy to Finally Be Back Home” vaulted him to fame, though not until 34 years after his original performance on a Russian television show. The tune became a YouTube sensation in 2010 for its playful yet incomprehensible lyrics.
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The song’s original lyrics spoke of an idealistic scene in which a cowboy was riding his horse across the prairie, daydreaming of his wife back home knitting stockings, but the lyrics were thought to be too pro-Western for Soviet censors. While it’s not known if the lyrics were banned outright, Khil and composer Arkady Ostrovsky decided to strip the lyrics in favor of the wordless “vokaliz” style, which led to the catchy rendition so readily available on YouTube, augmented by Khil’s wooden gestures and plastic smile. Needing something to call it, the video clip’s 21st century purveyors settled on “Trololo,” mirroring the yodeling that emerged from Mr. Khil’s mouth (or would have, had he not been lip-synching).
While the song attracted little attention upon its original rendition, the powers of the Internet took over 34 years later to rejuvenate the tune. And now, people across the world are mourning the loss of a Russian singer who faded into obscurity more than 30 years ago.
And fortunately for Mr. Khil, the Internet never forgets.