Iosif Davydovich Kobzon (born September 11, 1937) is an iconic Soviet crooner, who has been acclaimed as "the official voice of the Soviet Union".
Kobzon was born to Jewish parents in the mining town of Chasiv Yar, Ukraine.
In 1958 Kobzon started his singing career, and in 1962, he recorded his first LP which included songs written by Aleksandra Pakhmutova. In the next 5 years, he was awarded at the international song contests in Sopot and Bulgaria.
During Leonid Brezhnev's time in office (1964?1982), there was hardly an official concert where Kobzon didn't take part. In 1984 the singer was honored with the USSR State Prize. Three years later, he was made People's Artist of the USSR.
Kobzon was married three times. In 1969, Kobzon married Lyudmila Gurchenko, one of the best known stars of the Soviet cinema. In 1971 he married his current wife Ninel Drizina with whom he has had 2 children.
Considering Kobzon's career and singing style, many say that he is Russia's answer to the U.S. crooner Frank Sinatra.
His best known song is "Instants" from the legendary Soviet TV series "Seventeen Instants of Spring" (1973).
Joseph Kobzon appeared with solo concerts in most cities of the former USSR. He also performed on tour in many countries of the world, including United States, Spain, Sweden, Israel, Greece, Finland, Panama, Bolivia, and Argentina. He has shared the stage with stars like Liza Minnelli and Julio Iglesias.
In 1986, he was the first celebrity to visit and perform in the town of Chernobyl to cheer the nuclear reactor rescuers.
In 1997 Iosif Kobzon officially finished his international touring, but continues to appear before audiences and on Russian television to date.
Since 1989, Kobzon has been active in the Russian politics. He is probably the most experienced Russian MP, and also the one who gets reelected with the largest margin in the country's history. As of 2005, he is the head of the State Duma's culture committee.
In 2002 Kobzon is also noted for being the first negotiator to risk his own life in rescuing a mother with 3 children and a citizen of the United Kingdom during the Moscow theater hostage crisis.
Kobzon has a reputation for his readiness to help others; it is said that he has helped thousands of Russia's poor and unfortunate, and personally funds orphanages. His reputation has earned him honorary doctorate degrees from numerous Russian universities, honorary residency in countless Russian cities, and hundreds of State awards and prizes.
To honour his remarkable musical, political and humanitarian achievements he has been awarded Russia's highest State Decorations; and in 2003 there was a statute of Iosif Kobzon erected in Donetsk, Ukraine.
Despite his achievements, the US Department of State has refused to grant Iosif Kobzon a US visa on grounds of alleged ties with the Russian Mafia. Kobzon denies the allegations, which have pursued him for over 10 years, challenging the US authorities to present evidence and give him a fair opportunity to reply.
Kobzon claims the allegations arose out of a smear campaign designed to damage his political reputation. See "Kobzon`s US visa denial ? Character-Assassination Without Recourse to Justice". He questions the veracity of the allegations by highlighting that his wife and children have too been denied US visas. "Why is my family being punished for allegations against me? That's not American justice, that's an obvious campaign designed to hurt me any way they can" he says.
Kobzon has never been charged of any criminal or unlawful activity.