Vigen the incomparable

Shirin Tabibzadeh

For many of us as Iranians, the death of our beloved Vigen has been difficult to reconcile. More than a prolific singer—he was like a member of the family, akin to a close friend who lifted our spirits for so many years, and a symbol of our connection to our homeland.  His character was one of great strength and optimism, as he was rarely seen without a smile.  Although he was a highly celebrated artist, he was not without great humility and integrity. Furthermore, Vigen did not take people's kindness and love for granted, as he backed this belief with the lyrics in one of his songs: " man haman avazeh khane-e mardom-e paakam hanooz." 

Until the end Vigen remained the same as the first time I saw him at one of Tehran’s nightclubs—always down-to-earth and carefree. That night, I recall, he sang a song for one of his friends who was always plagued with marital problems. This friend was from Gorgan.  In an effort to let his friend know that he was not happy with the way he treated his wife, Vigen gave him a subtle hint through one of his songs as he changed the original lyrics of "ghasam khordam khodaya digeh bandar nayayam", to "ghasam khordam khodaya digeh gorgan nayayam."  During his break, he then sat down with them and engaged in a heartfelt conversation to aid in the reconciliation of their marriage. By the end of the evening, the couple went home hand in hand. 

The last time that I saw him was in the U.S. at a friend’s wedding.  He was as jubilant and lighthearted as he had been in years past, and as humble and friendly.  I also spoke with his wife at the break, who seemed very proud of him.  She said that he would like to write his memoir. What a wonderful book that would make, I thought! One about how an ordinary man’s talent took him to the top and became loved by so many Iranians; and as I had witnessed, a man who treated his fans with so much respect and gratitude.  I told her that I thought Vigen was the Frank Sinatra of Iran.

Although he was of Armenian origin, the majority of Vigen’s songs were in Persian. His flawless and beautiful music included all of 600 songs.  His voice was, as it always had been, warm and lyrical, instilling a sense of security. The lyrics superb and the music divine, his songs can instill, joy, romance or celebration, among many feelings.  He was an avant-garde in his music. He brought the guitar onto the stage, something that had not been done before in Iranian music. He did not need to try hard to convey the messages of love and peace, which were the essence of many of his songs.  You could feel his yearning for his homeland in the songs about Tehran, Iran, and the people whom he loved so much. Although he himself stated that he was not a man of politics, his songs reflected a deep-seated yearning for his country that so many of us share. He was a man of peace and a great human being who was at peace with himself and with the world. 

Vigen was also an admirable father, he lived with his last wife happily for 30 years.  He was very proud of his children who are wonderful and talented human beings that cared for him beyond any parent's dream to his last moments.  Despite two heart attacks and his last illness, prostate cancer, he remained an athlete and as strong as always.  In his last and most memorable interview, he broke into heartbreaking tears as he described how one of his fans had phoned him and said: "my family and I will donate to you any organs that your body needs."  His cry was one of sadness, joy and gratitude, it was so elating for him to know that people loved him to that extent. 

Vigen will be dearly missed. His name is engraved into our culture, he was and is a legend, and no other can ever fill his place.  Mahtab, ragheeb, baroon barooneh, tehran, vatanam, .......( is there anyone who does not have some kind of memory with his beautiful adorable songs?)will remain in people's heart for good.