You are currently viewing Yuri Shatunov died.  Meduza remembers a musician who never dreamed of becoming a star – but will remain a symbol of the early 1990s


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Singer Yuri Shatunov died at the age of 48, the cause of death was a massive heart attack. From 1986 to 1991, he was the soloist of Tender May, the most popular group in the USSR at that time. In “Tender May”, which was directed by producer Andrei Razin, there were several soloists (posing as Shatunov), and the group gave dozens of concerts a month, sometimes performing simultaneously in several cities. After “Tender May” Shatunov began a solo career, but neither he nor the group returned to their previous level of popularity. Meduza briefly talks about what kind of person the lead singer of the main Soviet boy band was.

Three days before the death of Yuri Shatunov on NTV news came out – it turned out that the former soloist of the Laskovy May group only now, after long litigation, received the rights to perform the song White Roses and other hits.

Shatunov sued for them with Andrey Razin, the former administrator of the group, producer and at the same time performer of the songs “Tender May”. With Razin in the early 1990s, in fact, the real success of the group began. Hearing on the tapes the voice of a teenager from an orphanage in the Orenburg region, he (then the administrator of the Mirage group) decided to take up a new project and led self-taught musicians to the status of the country’s most popular band – and a symbol of their time.

“The group really fell on the late perestroika time, it coincided well with the feeling of some kind of mass post-Soviet orphanage, when the country lost a sense of value, the meaning of existence. And at the same time there was a feeling of some kind of general poverty, ”- says in BBC commentary music critic Alexander Gorbachev. And he adds that “Tender May” is “specially” poor “music” and “for timbres and instruments.”

The bet on “poverty” and “orphanhood” worked. At the junction of the 1980s-1990s, the group collected stadiums – not a single video about the group is complete without close-ups crying groupies Shatunov, who know all the songs by heart.

The underage soloist also looked bright – he wore a disheveled, almost punk hairstyle, demeaned on camera and went on stage wearing a Playboy T-shirt, exposing shoulders and chest. The Soviet Union had never seen such a performance by teenagers – it is not surprising that Shatunov became a megastar and a favorite of the female part of the audience (a standard element of the Tender May mythology is children born all over the country from the soloist of the ensemble).

Where was born “Tender May”

At one of his last concerts in 2022, Shatunov invited Sergey Kuznetsov, the author of White Roses, Pink Evening, Gray Night and other main songs of the group, to the stage. To the applause of the audience to the microphone slowly walked out an elderly man. “Everyone knows perfectly well where Laskovy May was born and who created it,” said Shatunov, the audience screamed in approval.

“Tender May” was born in Orenburg in 1986 – at boarding school No. 2. Kuznetsov led a musical circle there. Shatunov was 13 at the time. His parents divorced when he was three. His mother died when the boy was 11. Shatunov did not communicate with his father, and Yura was brought up by his aunt – but the teenager ran away from home all the time, and later completely wandered around Bashkiria and the Orenburg region.

In 1985, Valentina Tazekenova, the director of the orphanage in the village of Akbulak, drew attention to Shatunov, who became his “main adult” and “second mother” for him (her other famous pupil, decades later, was the tiktoker and singer Danya Milokhin). In 1986, Tazekenova became the director of the Orenburg boarding school No. 2, Yura left for her – and already in a new place he met Kuznetsov.

The name of the boyish group was also invented by Kuznetsov – according to a line from the song “Summer” composed by him: “It seems to us that winter-winter is long, but gentle May will come into its own.” Nobody liked the name, but a few minutes before the next performance – Tender May began with school discos and concerts at small venues – right behind the stage, it was decided to call it that way, after all, told Kuznetsov.

In a few years, this phrase will become almost a household word – “like affectionate May” will mean something uncomplicated and naive, but super popular. Something that makes teenagers cry at concerts.

Many people know the legend according to which the all-Union popularity came to the group in a roundabout way: supposedly the first recordings of “Tender May” were offered by the producers to be played from cassettes on trains – and so the whole country found out about it. In fact, Kuznetsov simply agreed to sell the cassettes at the Orenburg kiosk at the railway station – and in this way the first recordings got to Razin, who in those years was just starting to do show business.

At the very beginning of the 1990s, Kuznetsov left the group, he was no longer satisfied with the way Razin was doing business. Shatunov remained. After 30 years in Andrey Malakhov’s show “Hi, Andrey!” he explained it this way: “He left, but I couldn’t, because I was a“ state child ”. And he didn’t have a passport. I was forced to stay with him [Разиным]”.

According to Shatunov, over the past two years in “Tender May” he and the group have earned five million rubles (“Volga” then cost 1200″), but the performers themselves did not see this money. To the question of one of the guests of the show, actor Stanislav Sadalsky: “Will you ever go to Razin’s funeral?” Shatunov answered harshly: “Just to make sure [что он умер]”.

In 1991, Shatunov himself left the group. Since then, the controversy over “White Roses” and other hits has continued. “For 30 years, the administrator Razin, after he lost Sergey Kuznetsov, has been coming up with all sorts of frauds to keep me with him. He deprives Kuznetsov of authorship and begins to blackmail me with these songs, ”- spoke he is with Malakhov in 2021.

One example of such blackmail, Shatunov claimed, is connected with his own son, who was born in 2006. According to him, Razin set a condition: “If I am not godfather [твоего сына], you can not see these songs. Razin became one – and now calls himself Shatunov’s godfather in an interview.

After leaving Tender May, Shatunov went to Germany, learned there for the sound engineer. In the 2000s, Shatunov continued his solo career – and again hit the charts (you can at least remember the song “Childhood” about Natasha, who wants to pull her braid). By the end of the 2010s, Shatunov forever entered the circle of Russian pop artists, who are waiting for the audience of the 1990s Disco concerts.

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There are a lot of myths and strange stories around “Tender May”, it seems impossible today to understand the history of their origin: from the legend invented by Razin that Shatunov is the illegitimate son of Elvis Presley (and Razin himself is the nephew of Mikhail Gorbachev), to endless reincarnations and duplicating lineups of a group that has been dying and resurrecting for three decades.

What we know about Shatunov for sure is that he did not dream of a musical career – his “idea fix” was hockey, in the boarding school he did a lot of it, he was a left winger. “But it turned out the way it did,” he said.

Shatunov was fond of fishing, went to the river with his son and daughter – he said that his record catch was a 13-kilogram fish. Before going on stage, he always smoked a cigarette. Played the harmonica, planned concerts as of June 2022 and was glad that his children were not interested in music: “There are professions that are more interesting and stable.”

Colleagues called Shatunov is a closed person. He himself said that “it is enough to listen to his songs” and everything will become clear. In January 2022, Shatunov released a video for the new song “Don’t Argue With Me,” in which he looks at the northern lights and walks along a luminous path somewhere in space: “Don’t argue with me, but rather a kiss. Let insults fly past us.

“White roses”

Natalia Gredina

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J. A. Allen

Author, blogger, freelance writer. Hater of spiders. Drinker of wine. Mother of hellions.