Leonid Utyosov

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Leonid Utyosov
Utyosov in Jolly Fellows (1934)
Background information
Born (1895-03-21)21 March 1895
Origin Odessa, Russian Empire
Died 9 March 1982(1982-03-09) (aged 86)
Moscow, Russian SFSR, Soviet Union
Genres Jazz
Occupation(s) Singer, actor
Instruments Vocals

Leonid Osipovich Utyosov or Utesov (Russian: Леони́д О́сипович Утёсов); real name Lazar (Leyzer) Iosifovich Vaysbeyn or Weissbein (Russian: Ла́зарь (Ле́йзер) Ио́сифович Вайсбе́йн) (21 March [O.S. 9 March] 1895, Odessa – 9 March 1982, Moscow), was a famous Soviet jazz singer and comic actor of Jewish origin, who became the first pop singer to be awarded the prestigious title of People's Artist of the USSR in 1965.[1]


Leonid Utyosov was brought up in Odessa (in present-day Ukraine) and attended the Faig School of Commerce, from which he dropped out and joined the Borodanov Circus troupe as an acrobat. He started his stage career in 1911 in Kremenchuk, then returned to Odessa, changed his artistic name to Leonid Utyosov, and performed as a stand up comedian with the Rosanov troupe and with the Rishelyavsky Theatre. In 1917, he won a singing competition in Gomel, Belarus, then performed in Moscow.

In the 1920s, he moved to Leningrad and set up one of the first Soviet jazz bands. In Leningrad, he began collaboration with the popular composer, Isaak Dunayevsky, which turned out to be a breakthrough for both artists. At that time, Utyosov built a band of the finest musicians available in Leningrad, and created a style all his own - a jazz show with stand up comedy, which blended several styles, ranging from Russian folk songs to a variety of international cosmopolitan genres. In 1928, Utyosov toured Europe and attended performances of American jazz bands in Paris, which influenced his own style. During the 1930s, Utyosov and his band, called "Thea-Jazz" (a portmanteau of Theatrical Jazz) had a regular gig at the Marble Hall of the Kirov Palace of Culture in Leningrad. Utyosov's jazz band also performed at the Leningrad Maly Opera theatre, at the "Svoboda-teatr," and at the Leningrad Music Hall. In his performances, Utyosov delivered a variety of musical styles, including such genres as American jazz, Argentine tango, French chanson, upbeat dance, and Russian folk music.[1]

Leonid Utyosov with Lyubov Orlova in Jolly Fellows

His popularity was on the rise in the 1930s when he co-starred with Lyubov Orlova in the comedy Jolly Fellows. In it, Utyosov performed such hits as "Serdtse" (Heart), "Me and My Masha at the Samovar," and "Tired Sun", also known in English as "Burnt by the Sun" (revived by Nikita Mikhalkov as a theme for his eponymous Oscar-winning film). During World War II, Utyosov performed on the front lines, helping lift the spirits of the Soviet soldiers fighting against the Nazis. On Victory Day (9 May 1945),[1] he performed on Sverdlov Square in Moscow.

Utyosov lived in Moscow for the rest of his life, albeit in many of his songs he alluded to his native town of Odessa, where a monument to him was dedicated in 2000.

Richard Stites writes:

In the years of the "red jazz age" (1932–1936) European and Soviet bands were heard in dozens of cities. The kings were Alexander Tsfasman and Leonid Utesov. ... Utesov - musically far less gifted - was actually more popular than Tsfasman, partly because of the spectacular success of his comedy film Happy-Go-Lucky Guys, but mostly because his Odessa background and his circus and carnival road experience on the southern borscht belt gave him a clowning manner. He resembled his idol, the personable Ted ("Is everybody happy?") Lewis more than he did any of the great jazz figures of the time. In fact, Utesov was the typical estrada entertainer - quick witted, versatile, and funny. He was not only one of the stars of the 1930s but also a personal favorite of Stalin.[2]


  • 1919 - Lieutenant Schmidt - Freedom Fighter (Russian: Лейтенант Шмидт — борец за свободу)
  • 1923 - Trade-House "Entente and Co." (Russian: Tорговый дом «Антанта и К»)
  • 1926 - Career of Spirka Shpandyr (Russian: Карьера Спирьки Шпандыря)[3]
  • 1928 - Strangers (Russian: Чужие)
  • 1934 - Jolly Fellows (Russian: Весёлые ребята) — Kostya Potekhin
  • 1940 - Concert on the Screen (Russian: Концерт на экране)
  • 1942 - Concert for the Frontlines (Russian: Концерт фронту)
  • 1954 - Merry Stars (Russian: Весёлые звёзды)
  • 1963 - Melodies of Dunayevsky (Russian: Мелодии Дунаевского)
  • 1974 - Pyotr Martynovich and the Years of a Great Life (Russian: Пётр Мартынович и годы большой жизни)


  • Gop so smykom
  • S Odesskogo kichmana
  • Odessit-Mishka
  • Havana
  • Have a good night
  • Road to Berlin
  • My dear Muscovites
  • Waves of the Danube
  • Jewish Rhapsody
  • On a wing and a prayer
  • When Johnny came home
  • Leningrad bridges
  • Happy-go-lucky guys marsh
  • Song of the old cab
  • Beautiful marquise
  • Sea widely
  • Suliko
  • Tachanka
  • Chapliniana
  • In the Black Sea
  • Tyuh-tyuh
  • Oh, my Odessa

Honours and awards

A Russian stamp honoring Leonid Utyosov, 1999, 2 rub. (Michel 756, Scott 6542)

A minor planet, 5944 Utesov, discovered on May 2, 1984, is named after him.[1]

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 Леонид Утёсов. Спасибо, сердце!
  2. Richard Stites, Russian Popular Culture: Entertainment and Society since 1900 (Cambridge University Press, 1992: ISBN 0-521-36986-X), p. 74.
  3. Леонид Утёсов - Гоп со смыком (video footage) on YouTube

External links