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A Baku Farewell To The 'Soviet Sinatra'

A storied figure in Azerbaijani and Soviet cultural history exited the world stage this week, when the consummate showman dubbed the "Soviet Sinatra" died in Moscow at the age of 67.

Muslim Magomayev was honored and laid to rest in his native Baku after President Ilham Aliyev intervened to bring the beloved scion of a talented showbusiness family home for burial. Thousands of Azerbaijanis turned up to bid farewell to the renowned baritone operatic, jazz, and pop singer, whose success spanned five decades. His repertoire was famously varied, from odes to Soviet life ("My Broad Motherland") to jazz standards and American show tunes.

At the apex of his career in the 1960s and '70s, of course, Magomayev enjoyed official favor and the perks that accompanied being a "People's Artist of the USSR." But he is said to have secured his place in the Soviet and Azerbaijani firmaments by turning up at the Kremlin in 1962 and belting out a number called "Do The Russians Want War?" He insisted all along that he was able to maintain loyalty to both of his "homelands," Russia and Azerbaijan.

Although he has generally stayed away from performing in the past decade, "Times Online" notes that Magomayev's final release was expected to be a duet of the Sinatra classic "My Way" with the son-in-law of Azerbaijani President Aliyev.

-- Andy Heil

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