Obituary: Kari Tapio
Kari Tapio was the most successful popular singer in Finland since Olavi Virta, he died Tuesday at the age of 65.
Abroad he is being dismissed as a Eurovision wannabe, singing schlager - highly sentimental lyrics with catchy tunes. In Finland today there is a 22 page supplement on his life in the Iltalehti daily tabloid. Somewhere between these two extremes is the career of a hard-working musician separated from the rest of the world by a singing language understood by only 5 million people. And loved by even fewer, beyond the smart confines of the Kehä 3 ring road around Helsinki.
Kari Tapio's appeal was, like the US country music that he admired and learned from, essentially to the `Duunarit' or working class. Tapio's music was the soundtrack to truck driving, small dance halls (the Finns love to dance), gas station cafés and Saturday morning hoovering.
He drove himself to every one of his 15 or so gigs every month, often day after day across the country before a few days rest - even just before he died at home of a heart attack. I'd guess his gigs were pulling, at a minimum, 150.000 € a month - probably much more. But Tapio, arch-duunari as he was, took a salary like everyone else and paid his taxes like everyone else: even though his would be over 50%.
He said, quite simply, that all Finns enjoy such state services - education, healthcare etc - that he had to pay his full whack of taxes like everyone else. An unusual star and high-earner! He said also that he put honesty above all else.
If you've ever been a performer, you'll know that winding down the adrenalin after a performance is tough. You can't just shower, change, go back to the hotel and sleep. It takes 2 or 3 hours to come down. In a small hotel in the middle of nowhere there is nothing but the hotel bar and the hard-drinking local denizens, to whom the appearance of their idol is a cause for celebration. And the next night will be the same. He never let his fans down, but he let himself down.
I never liked the music but I respect the man.