Pop idol of a musical revolution in Iran
Vigen Derderian, who was born November 23, 1929, and died at the age of 73 of cancer in California. Before his emergence in the early 1950s, the music industry of his native Iran was dominated by traditional singers, who had little knowledge of western pop music or such instruments as the guitar. Then Vigen, known as the "Sultan of pop", ushered in a revolution that coincided with the emergence of a new, western-influenced middle class.
Born into a relatively poor family in the western Iranian city of Hamadan, Vigen was brought up by his older brother, after his father died when he was seven. During the second world war, his family moved to the northern city of Tabriz, where local Azerbaijani nationalists later declared the area a separatist republic, with the help of the occupying Soviet forces. Vigen may have resented the presence of the foreigners, but listening to Red Army troops playing the guitar changed his life. He bought his first guitar from a soldier.
Then the family moved to the capital Tehran. By 1951, Vigen had got his first job, performing at the Café Shemiran. One night, a national radio producer heard him, with the result that his first song, Moonlight, was broadcast on Tehran radio - and became an instant hit. More than 600 songs were to follow during his long career. Some of them, such as Red Rose, Rival and Rain, have become classic Iranian popular songs.
Compared by some fans to Elvis Presley, Vigen's good looks and tall, fine physique added to his appeal as Iran's first male pop star - especially among women at a time when ideas of emancipation were taking hold in the 1950s and 60s. He was also one of the first Iranian entertainers to perform with a guitar.
Vigen came from Iran's minority Armenian Christian community, a fact that had no effect on his appeal in a predominantly Muslim country. He sang in both Persian and Armenian, and, at the height of his popularity, featured in six movies. In that era, every Iranian artist wanted to be associated with him; among them the country's most established top female singers, Delkash and Elaheh are notable. He worked with the best songwriters and composers, who realized they had to cater for a new youth market, and performed some of his country's most memorable songs.
Vigen left Iran shortly before the 1979 revolution; he never returned. Meanwhile, the newly established Islamic Republic banned pop music. Based in California since he moved to exile, he continued to perform in concerts and on tours - including to Europe - and record new albums. He celebrated the 50th anniversary of his career at the Hollywood Palladium in Los Angeles in February 2001.
And despite the official ban of Islamic Republic on Pop-music, Vigen's albums continued to reach his millions of fans inside Iran via the black market. Some people traveled to neighboring countries to see him perform. His own last wish was to go home and perform for that vast audience in Iran, and one of his last songs, "Awazeh-Khan-e Mardom"(People's Entertainer), expressed that desire.
He died on October 26 2003, and left his second wife, Karen, and four daughters and a son from a previous marriage behind.