Bobby Farrel was undoubtedly an eccentric and memorable figure of the pop and dance music culture, most famous as the frontman of the music band Boney M. Farrel was the spirit of the band with his extravagant moves during the band’s live performances. Moreover, he often filled the headlines with some rather unusual news.
Farrel joined the newly-formed band in 1976, upon an invitation of the producer Frank Farian, who had spotted him as a DJ in Germany. Boney M. was at the peak of fame in 1978, when it dominated the European charts with hits like “The Rivers of Babylon” and “Rasputin”, which was banned of performance when they became the first Western music group invited by a Soviet leader, to perform at the Red Square in Moscow.
At one point, the producer Frank Farian revealed that Bobby made almost none of the vocal contributions to the group’s studio records. For the whole time, it was Farian himself who performed the male vocals in the songs. The same was confirmed by the Jamaican-British singer, Liz Mitchell, who was a lead singer of the band and had claimed that only she, Marcia Barrett from the other girls, and Farian had sung the studio versions.
Bobby had left the group in 1981, following quarrels with Frank, only to re-join in 1984. Meanwhile, he also married Macedonian Romani Jasmine Shaban, which has been described as the wedding of the decade. With Shaban, the Aruban-born singer has had a daughter and a son. Their relationship was turbulent so they split in 1995. According to their daughter Zanillya, “they were both very fiery and, occasionally, it got physical.”
Bobby’s daughter further claimed that the producer deprived Farrel of his rights over Boney M‘s hits, which caused the singer to lose all his income after the band had split. She stated: “When Dad asked Farian for 100,000 marks he was told to sign some papers. He signed away everything – image rights, royalties, the lot. My father lost everything. We had to move in with my grandmother in the Netherlands and live on welfare. After that, Dad started getting angry a lot. But Mum was very smart and realized that if you own the name, you can use it. Farian had not registered Boney M worldwide. So that’s why Dad could perform only in certain countries“.
However, the most peculiar of all events, concerning the life and times of Bobby Farrel, have been the events of his death, which occurred on 30th December 2010, after a heart failure some hours after a performance in Saint Petersburg. Strange enough, his death turned into an uncanny coincidence relating to one of his biggest hits, “Rasputin”. The song’s subject picks the mad Russian mystical monk Rasputin, who had also died on the same date and in the same city as Bobby.
As a historical figure, Rasputin was first a trusted friend of the family of the last Tsar of the Russian Empire, Nicholas II, but afterward, an easy scapegoat among Russian nationalists. In hopes that his death will save the monarchy, he was assassinated. During some live performances, Bobby also used to dress up as Rasputin himself.
According to Bobby’s agent, Boney M‘s performances in the Soviet era were important for the band’s path to stardom. Today, Farrell’s music is preserved by his daughter Zanillya, who in 2011 won the Dutch music prize Grote Prijs van Nederland in the hip hop category.