Russian singing legend and lawmaker Joseph Kobzon has died at the age of 80, the singer’s relatives told Govorit Moskva Radio on Thursday, August 30.  

Kobzon was born to Jewish parents in the mining town of Chasiv Yar, in the Donbas region of Ukraine on September 11, 1937.

As a boy he demonstrated a talent for singing, winning numerous regional singing contests. He reached the national finals on two separate occasions, appearing in concerts dedicated to Joseph Stalin - a significant honor at the time.

Despite his talent for singing, Kobzon went on to technical school to study geology and mining in Dnepropetrovsk.  However, in 1959, following his 1956-1959 contact with professional music instructors in the Soviet Army where he was a member of the army’s song and dance ensemble, he decided that music would be his preferred vocation.

In 1958, Kobzon officially started his singing career in Moscow, and enrolled to study at the Gnessin Institute.  In the next few years he made valuable contacts in Moscow's entertainment world, and was eventually given a chance by composer Arkady Ostrovsky to perform some of his music.  

In 1962, he recorded his first LP which included songs written by Aleksandra Pakhmutova.

In 1964, he triumphed at the International Song Contest in Sopot, Poland, and in the following year he took part in the "Friendship" contest held across six nations, winning first prize in Warsaw, Berlin and Budapest.

His popularity rose quickly, and demand for his singing saw him frequently performing two to three concerts a day. His most popular hit song at the time was titled “A u nas vo dvore” (And in Our Yard).

His best-known song is “Mgnoveniya” (Instants) from the legendary Soviet TV series “Seventeen Moments of Spring” (1973).

Joseph Kobzon has performed in solo concerts in most cities of the former USSR. He was also bestowed the rare honor of performing international concerts tours as a representative of USSR in United States, Panama, Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia, Uruguay, Costa Rica, Argentina, Israel, Republic of the Congo, Zaire, Angola, Nigeria, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Germany, Greece, and Finland. Throughout his career, he has shared the stage with many Western superstars, including the likes of Liza Minnelli and Julio Iglesias.

Although he officially ended his international touring career in 1997, he continued to appear in regular concerts before audiences around the world, and was frequently seen on Russian television.

Dubbed Russia's answer to Frank Sinatra, Joseph Kobzon was also a successful businessman and politician.

He was elected to the State Duma of the Russian Federation from the second to the seventh convocations.

Hero of Labor of the Russian Federation, People's Artist of the USSR Joseph Kobzon was a member of the board of the Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia and is widely known for his peacekeeping and charity work.

In one of his final interviews earlier this month, Kobzon described the moment he was diagnosed with an incurable illness as a “terrible blow.”

Doctors had told him a decade ago that he only had weeks to live and he worried about never getting on stage again.

He told Russia's "When I came out of oblivion, my first thought was: 'Will I ever get on stage, sing? If not, then it is pointless to wake up'."

But after two surgeries in Germany and several chemotherapy sessions he managed to continue performing — while keeping his illness a secret.