From KCRW DJ Eric J Lawrence:
I’m a sucker for a good internet meme, and the source of one of the best of all time has sadly passed. Eduard Khil, the award-winner Russian singer known as “Mr. Trololo,” died this past weekend after suffering a major stroke last month at the age of 77.
Although a major figure in the mysterious world of Soviet-era pop of the 60s and 70s, he didn’t really become familiar to Western audiences until an unusual clip of him singing the song, “I Am Glad, Because I’m Finally Returning Back Home” on a 1976 Russian TV show surfaced on YouTube in 2009.
For reasons that remain unclear, the entirety of the song’s original lyrics had been replaced by Khil with a distinctive wordless vocalization (heard as “trololo,” thus the nickname), and the video features Khil lip-syncing the song while cavorting around a decidedly cheesy 70s set.
The clip quickly became an online sensation for two reasons:
1) It’s ridiculous.
Khil gamely tries to keep things cool, but when the song you’re singing has no real words, it’s hard to pantomime anything that actually makes sense. So instead, he fake-walks across the ecru-colored stage while staring at and gesticulating at an imaginary audience.
Frankly he’s a terrible lip-syncer, and the 70s fashion (matching yellow shirt & tie, a Roman Centurian-esque helmet of hair, etc.) merely augments the weirdness.
And 2) It’s awesome!
The song, wordless though it may be, is a total earworm, catchy beyond belief and easily singable by anybody, given the absence of any language barrier. And Khil, for all of his seeming discomfort, is genuinely charismatic and his good-natured demeanor is as infectious as the tune is.
The song spawned numerous parodies (including one from Oscar-winner Christoph Waltz from the Jimmy Kimmel show) and brought unexpected international attention to the now-septuagenarian singer. But Khil took it all with grace and his seemingly-permanent smile.
It never fails to blow the mind of anyone I show the video to, and I enjoy Mr. Khil’s performance so much, I use an image of him as the background to my Twitter homepage. Although he is still regarded as a hero in his hometown of Saint Petersburg for his long and acclaimed career, he is sure to go down in history as a memorable part of internet lore for one amazing video. So sing a hearty “trololo” for Eduard Khil this week and put a little spring in your step!
ERIC J. LAWRENCE