Vladimir Vysotsky, a Soviet stage and screen star who also enjoyed a wide reputation as a bitingly satiric underground balladeer, died of a heart attack in Moscow Thursday, friends reported.
Vysotsky, who in his late 40s, was a major voice of magitizdat, self-recorded music, in which songs unacceptable to state authorities for official release are privately recorded and quickly circulated in the country.
The leading actor of the avant garde Taganka Theater here, where most of this country's politically adventuresome plays are produced. Vysotsky specialized in roles depicting man in conflict with his society. He played an acclaimed Hamlet, had the lead in Berthold Brecht's "Galileo," and appeared in other choice dramatic parts. He was a commanding stage presence within a troupe noted for the dominance of director Yuri Lyubimov.
He also played leads in many politically correct films with patriotic themes and had a wide popular following as a detective, drawn from the best-selling detective novels of Arkadi and Zhura Viner.
But it was in his second life as a composer and ballad singer that Vysotsky created a special place for himself in the suppressed cultural environment of this country.
Though many of his albums were officially published, Vysotsky and his friends, in the Moscow intellectual community recorded dozens more, in which he indulged a taste for black humor and satire nurtured during youthful years in Stalinist prison camps. He lampooned Soviet officialdom in "The Ballad of the Currency Store," and also drew on such contemporary political issues as abuse of psychiatric institutions.
In "The Psychiatric Lyric," he sang: "If only Gogol could learn of our life in grief, even Gogol would gaze on it in utter disbelief."
These songs, endlessly entertaining in a pressured artistic atmosphere of the capital's intellectual community, filtered elsewhere as well, bringing Vysotsky trouble from the authorities.
He was barred from giving major concerts of his accepted works in Moscow, and in recent years the state had refused to allow him to travel to France to see his wife, French actress Marina Vlady, who survives him.