Muslim Magomayev (1942-2008)
Muslim Magomayev was a popular singer in the former Soviet Union. He was born on 17 August 1942, in Baku, Azerbaijan, USSR (now Baku, Azerbaijan). His grandfather, Muslim Magomayev Sr., was a renown composer in Azerbaijan. Young Magomaev followed his family tradition: he studied singing and piano at the Baku Conservatory of Music.
He shot to fame in the USSR in 1962, at the age of 19, after a stellar performance in the Kremlin Palace, Moscow. In 1963 he became known in Europe after a successful performance at the Youth Festival in Helsinki, Finland. That same year, he also appeared in the famous Tchaikovsky Concert Hall in Moscow for his first recital. At that time, popular singer Klavdiya Shulzhenko wrote: "The moment Muslim Magomaev appeared, it became a huge event. He is greater than all other singers. Everybody adores him." Magomaev became an instant celebrity and gained a considerable following in the Soviet Union and Europe.
During the mid 60-s Muslim Magomaev made a very important progress in perfecting his vocals skills: he took further training in the "La Scala" Opera Theater in Milan, Italy. His studies in Italy, the country of innumerable art treasures, the "Home" of belcanto, were highly beneficial for his singing, and also affected his inner world. Muslim Magomaev remained forever a supporter of the Italian school of singing. His adoration for such great singers as Beniamino Gigli, Gino Bechi, Tito Gobbi, 'Mario del Monaco' and Enrico Caruso was the driving motivation for his studies of operatic art.
Muslim Magomaev himself splendidly sang the leading arias of Figaro, Scarpia, Mephisto, Onegin. However, his success in popular music interfered with his operatic career. It was very similar to what happened to his favorite singer, Mario Lanza, about whom he wrote that Hollywood "stole" Mario Lanza from the operatic stage. In 1969 Magomaev won the International Song Competition in Sopot, Poland and also won the First "Golden Disc" at the Cannes Music Festival with 4.5 million of his records sold that year.
At age 30, Muslim Magomaev was one of the youngest recipients of the highest artistic title, People's Artist of the USSR. He also received numerous awards and decorations for his contribution to opera and popular music in the Soviet Union. Magomaev died of a heart failure on 25 October 2008, in Moscow, Russia, and was laid to rest in Baku, Azerbaijan.