A particular branch of the music world is in mourning today, as news came out of Russia that Boney M frontman Bobby Farrell was found dead in a hotel room in St. Petersburg on Thursday (December 30). He was 61 years old. The dance pop superstar — who rose to prominence on the back of singles like “Ma Baker,” “Rivers of Babylon” and “Hooray! Hooray! It’s a Holi-Holiday” that were massive and beloved in Europe — had just performed a concert the night before in the Russian city, where Boney M were still quite popular (mostly due to the success of their single “Rasputin”).
Though they were never a big deal in the United States, German dance pop act achieved a level of stardom in Europe that kept them popular long after they first dropped their debut album Take the Heat Off Me in 1976. But if you have ever heard a Boney M song, it was probably “Rasputin,” as it gained cult status not only as a catchy dance-pop single about a famous Russian icon (nicknamed “The Mad Monk”) but also because it was more or less historically accurate (the narrative explains how Grigori Rasputin came to power and all the effort that went into killing him).
In a strange twist, the song “Rasputin” isn’t the only connection Farrell will have to the Mad Monk. On this day in 1916, Rasputin was finally killed after having survived multiple attempts on his life throughout the year (including what should have been a mortal stab wound and several poisonings). Rasputin was short four times, beaten horrifically and wrapped up in a carpet before being thrown in a river. Remarkably, he was able to free himself from the carpet but ultimately drowned to death. There is no word yet on Farrell’s cause of death, but it was far more peaceful than Rasputin’s.