Alexander Yakovlevich Rosenbaum PAR (Russian: aleksandr Yakovlevich Rozenbaum, Aleksandr Jakovlevic Rozyenbaum) (born September 13, 1951 in Leningrad, Soviet Union) is a Soviet and Russian bard from Saint Petersburg. He is best known as an interpreter of the blatnaya pesnya (criminal song) genre. Modern singers in this genre, such as Mikhail Shufutinsky often sing Rosenbaum's songs.
Rosenbaum graduated from the First Pavlov State Medical University of St. Peterburg in 1974, and worked in the medical field for four years. His musical education consists of piano and choreography courses at a musical school. In 1968, while still a student, Rosenbaum started writing the songs for which he is famous. His early songs were for student plays, but he soon also wrote for rock groups and started performing as a singer-songwriter in 1983, sometimes under the pseudonym "Ayarov".
Among his most famous songs are the ones about Leningrad, the Soviet-Afghan War, Cossacks, and the Jewish Mafia in Odessa. Songs such as "Gop-Stop" (a comedy about two gangsters executing an unfaithful lover) and "Vals-boston" (The Boston Waltz) are popular across Russian social groups and generations.
Rosenbaum accompanies himself on either a six- or twelve-string acoustic guitar, using the Open G tuning adopted from the Russian seven string guitar.
His attitude toward the criminal song genre can best be illustrated by his own words:
On May 16, 2001, by president Putin's decree, Rosenbaum was awarded the title of People's Artist of Russia, probably the highest title in the artistic field of activity in Russia.
Rosenbaum sometimes employs peculiar musical time signatures and patterns in his songs, striving to sound fresh and unique – a bit atypical for a songwriter that employs gangster and criminal slang elements in his lyrics. Though many of his songs are elaborate in their instrumentation, the stress is placed on the primary melodies of his songs and their messages, as is usually the case in bard music.
However many prominent Russian bards shun Rozenbaum and refuse to count him in as a member of their community. While bards used to be treated as outcasts and their music was drawn underground through the years of Soviet regime, Rozenbaum enjoyed official approval long before collapse of the Soviet Union with its tight ideological censorship. "Bard Song Anthology" by Dmitry Sukharev ("Bardovskaya pesnya. antologiya", sost. Dmitrii Suharev, ISBN 5-94799-234-5) widely acclaimed as 'Bible' of Russian bard movement, listing nearly every author of every song, doesn't even mention his name.
His lyrics are quite often heart-wrenching, telling stories of people in insufferable pain, suffering implacable fates, and of love powerful enough to enslave a man. He sees himself not so much as a critic, but a true patriot who sees the worst sides of his country, but loves its people still.
He has stated that his wide lyrical scope is due to his being a sort of medium. For example, he wrote many crime-related songs using their jargon, but he never lived the criminal life in reality. Similarly, many of his songs about the Cossacks were written without the benefit of ever having a single relative from that community.
Rosenbaum's most popular and culturally relevant song to-date, and his greatest hit, is "Vals-Boston" (Russian: Val's-boston), which translates to "The Boston Waltz." The title refers to a dance called the American Waltz, or alternatively the Boston.
In concert, Rosenbaum performs either alone or with his band, usually consisting of at least six other members (drummer, bass guitarist, two keyboardists, lead electric guitarist, and violinist). In his solo concerts, his guitar accompaniment tends to be different every time in some way. He is known for the way he stretches or, contrarily, cuts the length of musical bars in a song, making the song unique and unpredictable every time.
Rosenbaum is strongly opposed to lip synching during his concerts, a practice that has become increasingly widespread in Russia after the Soviet era. Once, during a festival concert, where many performers lip synched, Rosenbaum, all the time speaking into his live microphone, acerbically asked the sound mixer: "Can you turn up my guitar a bit, guys? After all, the little thing's live!"
On December 7, 2003 Alexander Rosenbaum took office as a member of the Russian parliament (the fourth Duma) for Yedinaya Rossiya and deputy chairman of the State Duma Culture Committee. When asked by a journalist about what he had to sacrifice to be able to run for MP, Rosenbaum answered:
He was not listed as an MP in the fifth Duma.
He is also a supporter of Yisrael Beiteinu Israeli political party and sang the theme tune for the party in the Israeli legislative election, 2009.
Rosenbaum is co-owner of a growing (as of 2007) network of beer-halls in Saint-Petersburg, called "Tolstiy Frayer". The name has a humorous, as well as gangster slang air to it and can roughly be rendered as "Non-Criminal Fat Chap".Pamyati A. Zvezdina-Severnogo (In memory of A. Zvezdin-Severny; April 1982)
Noviye pesni (New Songs; November 1983)
Epitafiya (Epitaph; 1986)
Moi dvory (My Courtyards;1986)
Narisuyte mne dom (Paint Me a House; 1986)
Doroga dlinoyu v zhizn (The Life-long Road; 1988)
Kazachyi pesni (Cossack Songs; 1988)
Anafema (Anathema; 1988)
Nyu-Yorkskiy kontsert (A New-York Concert; 1987)
Goryachaya Desyatka (Hot Ten; 1994)
A. Rozenbaum i "Bratya Zhemchuzhniye" 11 let spustya (A. Rosenbaum and the "Zhemchuzhnye Brothers", 11 years after; 1994)
Veshchaya sudba (Prophetic Fate; 1994, compilation)
Nostalgiya (Nostalgia; 1994)
Vyalotekushchaya Shizofreniya (Sluggishly progressing schizophrenia; December 1994)
Byloye i diski (The Past and the Disks; volumes 1, 2 and 3)
Antologiya 1. Domashniy kontsert (Anthology 1. A Home Concert; 1981)
Antologiya 2. Posvyashcheniye posvyashchayushchim (Anthology 2. Devoted to the Devoters; 1983)
Antologiya 3. Kontsert v Vorkute. (Anthology 3. A Concert in Vorkuta; 1984)
Antologiya 4. Kontsert na LOMO (Anthology 4. A Concert at LOMO; 1987)
Rozoviy zhemchug (Pink Pearls; August–November 1995)
Na plantatsiyah lyubvi (On Plantations of Love; March–May 1996)
Kontsert v den rozhdeniya (A Birthday Concert; September 1996)
Vozvrashcheniye na Argo (The Return to Argo; February 1997)
Iyulskaya zhara (July Heat; November 1997)
Luchshiye pesni (The Best Of; 1982–1997, compilation)
Transsibirskaya magistral (Trans-Siberian Railway 1999)
Odinokiy volk (Lonesome Wolf; 2001, compilation)
Nastoyashchiy soldat (Real Soldier; April 2000)
Staraya gitara (Old Guitar; 2001)
Ya lyublyu vozvrashchatsya v svoy gorod... (I Love Coming Back to My Town…; 2003)
Strannaya zhizn (Strange Life; 2003)
Ya vizhu svet (I See the Light; December 2005)
Poputchiki (Fellow travellers; October 2007)
Mechta blatnogo poeta (The Dream of an Underworld Poet November 2009)
Rubashka naraspashku (Unbuttoned Shirt November 2010)
Berega chistogo bratstva (Coast of pure brotherhood with Grigory Leps ;December 2011)
Metafizika (Metaphysics; December 2015)