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People’s Artist of Russia passed away on November 28. He was 72 years old.

Composer, musician and singer Alexander Gradsky left a big mark on the culture of Russia. Films for which he wrote music are included in the golden fund of Russian cinema. The songs that brought him fame in the 1970s – “The Song of the Ship” from the film “At home among strangers, a stranger among us” and “How young we were” from the film “My love in the third year” – are still familiar to everyone today. The main stages of the artist’s biography – from the first rock band, which Alexander Borisovich created as a teenager, to the opening of his own theater, Gradsky Hall, can be found in this article.

Beginning: “Slavs”, “Skomorokhi”, “Merry Guys”

Alexander Gradskiy was born in 1949 in the city of Kopeisk, Chelyabinsk Region, into the family of a mechanical engineer Boris Fradkin and actress Tamara Gradskaya, head of an amateur theater. As Alexander Borisovich said, his mother, a graduate of GITIS, was invited to work at the Moscow Art Theater, but she refused and left with her husband to the Urals – he was assigned there after graduation. In 1957, the family returned to Moscow. My father worked at a factory, and my mother was in charge of theatrical circles, and later worked in the magazine “Theater Life”.

Tamara Pavlovna died when her son was 14 years old. Then he took her last name – in memory of his beloved mother. From his mother, Alexander Gradsky inherited a love of music. At the insistence of his parents, from 1958 to 1965, he enjoyed studying violin at a music school. Later came the passion for jazz, blues, rock and roll – among the idols of the young Gradsky were Elvis Presley, Little Richard, Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra. He could listen to their recordings thanks to his maternal uncle – Tamara Gradskaya’s brother worked in the USSR folk dance ensemble of Igor Moiseev, who often toured the world. He loved Alexander Borisovich and the Soviet stage (Mark Bernes, Lydia Ruslanova), and opera performers (Enrico Caruso, Fyodor Chaliapin).

In 1965, Gradsky founded his first group – “Slavyane”. The collective, consisting of five young musicians, became one of the first well-known Moscow rock groups and existed for two years without leaving any audio recordings. Despite the name, the Slavyan’s repertoire consisted almost entirely of songs from older English-speaking colleagues – The Beatles and The Rolling Stones (this practice was common for most rock bands of that time). Gradsky turned to the Russian language in his next collective, the Skomorokhi group (1966).

“Skomorokhs” also performed cover versions of other people’s songs, but the emphasis was on the original, their own – they were composed by all members of the collective. Keyboardist Alexander Buinov, a future member of VIA “Merry Boys”, for example, wrote the successfully performed songs “Alyonushka” and “Trava-Murava”. “Skomorokhs” existed until 1979, sometimes stopping their activities, sometimes reuniting again. During one of these breakups of the group, Gradsky left for the VIA “Merry Boys” (1970‒1971), where he first began performing not only as a guitarist, but also as a singer.

In parallel with the Skomorokhs in the 1960s, Gradsky created another group – Los Panchos, at one time he played the lead guitar in the famous VIA Electron. Among the groups with which he collaborated at that time were the “Scythians” and the musical group of Polish students of Moscow State University “Cockroaches”.

In 1969, Alexander Gradsky entered the faculty of academic singing of the Gnessin Institute. In 1974, when he was finishing his studies, not only rock music lovers knew his name.

Cinema: “Romance of Lovers”, “Do not part with your loved ones”, “Genius”

In the early 1970s, Andrei Mikhalkov-Konchalovsky began work on the film “A Romance of Lovers”. The task before the director was difficult: he decided to shoot a picture in which, together with the events in the lives of young heroes (Evgeny Kindinov and Elena Koreneva), everything would change – both the atmosphere and the genre. The magical first part, in which, it seems, the music does not stop for a minute and everyone expresses themselves in singing and white poetry, ends with the hero’s terrible disappointment – miraculously surviving after a terrible accident during military service, he returns home and finds out that his bride has married another. A movie camera, lighting devices, previously invisible participants in the filming, appear in the frame, and the second part begins – a realistic, black and white, without songs, love and joy. And only at the very end, color suddenly bursts into the frame and music sounds – as a sign of hope.

Initially, it was assumed that the music for the film would be written by the composer Murad Kazhlayev, but he refused. Then the director was told about the young musician Gradsky. Konchalovsky, after listening to the recordings of his songs, immediately made an offer. This was an unprecedented case for the USSR: a 23-year-old musician, a student who is not a member of the Composers’ Union, receives an order for a two-part feature film. Gradsky wrote all the music, and some of the songs, including Love, Song of Friendship, Song of Birds, Song of Mother, Death of a Hero, performed alone or in duets with Zoya Kharabadze and Innokenty Smoktunovsky.

The film was shown on screens in 1974, in the same year the music from “Romance of Lovers” was released as a separate disc. Soon after, Alexander Gradsky entered the Moscow Conservatory, where he studied composition with Tikhon Khrennikov.

In 1976, Gradskiy performed the song by Alexandra Pakhmutova and Viktor Dobronravov “How Young We Were” for the film “My Love in the Third Year”. The song was later performed by Joseph Kobzon, Lyudmila Gurchenko, Dmitry Hvorostovsky and other artists, but it has always remained the hallmark of Alexander Borisovich.

Another important song in his biography can be heard in Nikita Mikhalkov’s film “One among strangers, a stranger among friends.” “Song of the Ship” sounds at the very beginning of the film. Later, the director recalled her like this: “I especially love“ The Song of the Ship ”, wonderfully sung by Alexander Gradsky – at that time it was just a revelation for me” (quoted from the book by Alexander Lipsky “Nikita Mikhalkov”).

Also among the films, in which songs performed by Alexander Gradsky, are – “O sport, you are the world!” (song “We Can’t Live Without Each Other”, 1981), “Don’t Part With Your Loved Ones” (song “Goodbye”, 1979), “Concert for Two Violins” (1975).

Gradsky wrote music for more than 10 feature films, for some he sang songs himself. Among them – the serial film “Prisoner of the If Castle” (“Song of Hope”, “Song of Freedom”, “Monte Cristo” and others, 1988), “The Art of Living in Odessa” (1989), “Let’s Talk, Brother .. . “(1978),” In August 44th “(2000).

Animated films, for which Alexander Borisovich wrote music, knows more than one generation. These are “The Princess and the Cannibal” (1977), “The Legend of the Old Lighthouse” (1977), the fantastic “Pass” (1988) based on the story “Village” by Kir Bulychev, surreal “Stereotypes” (1989) – the first joint Soviet-American cartoon, which pokes fun at stereotypes about Russians and Americans.

Alexander Gradsky played in several feature films. In two of them – the children’s film “Tuning Fork” about the problems of raising adolescents (1979) and the detective “Genius” (1991) – he plays himself.

In 1991, Alexander Gradsky founded his own theater, which today is located in the building of the former Burevestnik cinema in Zamoskvorechye. The building, designed by Ivan Zholtovsky in 1957, was renovated in 2014. The theater opened in the fall of 2015. Concerts, musical and creative evenings are held here.


Alexander Gradsky received the title of Honored Artist of Russia in 1997. He became People’s Artist of Russia two years later. Gradskiy is a laureate of the State Prize of Russia. Her artist was awarded for the concert program “Three hours of live music”.

In 2019, Alexander Gradskiy became a laureate of the Vladimir Vysotskiy Prize “One’s Own Track”. It is given to people to whom, perhaps, Vysotsky would like to devote a song, whose life and work are consonant with the themes of his poetry.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article is a translation. Apologies should the grammar and or sentence structure not be perfect.

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