One of the most colorful figures in the history of Latvian theater is actor Edgars Liepiņš. Over the course of his life and long career, he performed more than 300 different roles, including roles in beloved Latvian films like Ceplis and Zvejnieka dēls. Being a multi-talented individual, he was also active musically, not just singing but also writing melodies and lyrics. At times displaying anarchic humor, at times a biting seriousness, Liepiņš remains a popular and beloved figure even today, more than twenty years after his death in 1995.
To recognize Liepiņš’ contribution to the field of Latvian popular music, the Latvian music label MicRec released a compilation of Liepiņš’ songs as part of their Leģendas (Legends) series which honors many noteworthy and popular performers from the past (such as singers Ojārs Grīnbergs and Nora Bumbiere, among others).
Edgars Liepiņš, much like most every singer in the 1970s and 80s, worked closely together with the best known composer of Latvian popular music – Raimonds Pauls. Working together in 1978, they recorded an album that included many tunes that would become Liepiņš’ signature songs. The recordings ran afoul of the Soviet censors at that time and were not officially released, but copies of the recordings did get made and were passed around, and many of the songs became quite popular. Songs of that era that remain popular even today include ‘Trīs runči’ (lyrics by Valdis Artavs), a song about three aging tomcats in a bar, talking about the exploits and conquests in the past. Featuring Pauls’ trademark lounge and jazz influenced piano playing, the song is catchy and memorable. Other popular songs from this session include ‘Tāpēc jau, ka nevar zināt kāpēc’ (lyrics by Imants Ziedonis) and ‘Nav vērts’ (lyrics by Ārija Elksne).
Liepiņš, always versatile and chameleon-like, found another composer with which he had great chemistry, and that was the similarly iconoclastic Juris Kulakovs of the rock group Pērkons. Liepiņš took to styling himself as Latvia’s ‘oldest punk’ while singing songs with lyrics by great Latvian poets such as Rainis, Jānis Poruks, and Kārlis Skalbe. Though these songs had a slightly harder edge and were rock based, Liepiņš easily played this role as well, with Kulakovs’ varied melodies – such as the new wave influenced ‘Pavasara idille (Vardes kurkst)’ (lyrics by Antons Austriņš) and the humorous ‘Mūžīgā saskaņa’ (lyrics by Rainis). The lyrics of ‘Mūžīgā saskaņa’ might even provide an accurate overview of Liepiņš – ‘Nekas man nevar kaitēt, nekā es nebaidos, es bojā neaiziešu, kaut arī nobeigtos’ (Nothing can bother me, I am not afraid of anything, I will not perish, even if I die).
Liepiņš worked with many well-known popular music composers throughout his career. Two songs with music by late composer Ivars Vīgners (a composer long deserving of a similar Legends retrospective) are included in this collection – ‘Katram savs’ and ‘Ja es būtu bagāts vīrs’ (lyrics for both by Alfred Krūklis). These songs show Liepiņš’ acting talents shining through in the songs, both with themes of accepting one’s place in life.
One of Liepiņš’ enduring and endearing trademarks is to provide a short introduction in his songs – not just announcing the name of the song, but also what key it is in, and even instructions to the performers – such as his directive for Raimonds Pauls to play with ‘ārkārtīgi mīksti atturīgu pedalizāciju, Maestro!’ (use the pedals very gently and reservedly, Maestro!).
The humorous, even bawdy side of Liepiņš is evident on the risqué (and, by today’s standards, even quaint) ‘Nerātnā dziesma’ (or ‘Naughty song’), a duet with singer Maija Lūsēna, where, every time Liepiņš is about to say a rude word, Lūsēna interrupts him and changes the topic of the song.
Liepiņš had his run-ins with the Soviet regime, and he was a very vocal critic of it. This side of the actor comes through on ‘Sibīrijas tango’ (a song with lyrics by another artist who suffered greatly under the Soviet occupation – poet Knuts Skujenieks). Liepiņš himself is the author of the music for this song, which begins with a bitterly ironic musical quote from the popular song ‘Pie dzintara jūras’ before launching into a somber melody (which is almost identical to the song ‘Tev dzīvē laimes nav’) and Skujenieks’ lyrics that are full of hopelessness and despair.
The CD booklet also includes a few photos of Liepiņš throughout his career, as well as an essay on the artist by Latvian music journalist Daiga Mazvērsīte.
Edgars Liepiņš was not just a popular and charismatic actor, but also an individual with a unique personality, beloved by many for his performances and his songs. The songs collected on Leģendas paint a broad and multi-colored picture of this artist, who was occasionally likened to a tragic clown – as his songs ranged from the absurdly comical to the deadly serious, all performed in his idiosyncratic style. Leģendas is an appropriate and thorough tribute to this true Latvian legend.
For more information, please visit the Edgars Liepiņš artist page at the MicRec website.
MicRec MRCD538, 2015
- Trīs runči
- Tāpēc jau, ka nevar zināt kāpēc
- O, Lora
- Nav vērts
- Mīļā meitiņ, atver logu
- Ja es būtu bagāts vīrs
- Katram savs
- Dziesma par mīļoto (Lambada)
- Es ticu
- Bērnība (Pelēkās noriņās)
- Sakarnīša dziesma
- Vakars Jūrmalā
- Pavasara idille (Vardes kurkst)
- Stāvu brīnīdamies
- Maija ziedīte
- Mūžīgā saskaņā
- Krāc Jūrmalas priedes
- Lai jums izdodas!
- Sibīrijas tango
- Vijolīte mežmalā
- Tad ziņģēsim to ziņģi
- Nerātnā dziesma
- Karaliskais atvadu valsis
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