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'Oscar', 'Grammy', Michael Jackson: how the daughter of emigrants from Ukraine Kvitka Cisyk conquered America with her voice


Lyudmila Balabay

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Her songs received an Oscar, a Golden Globe and were nominated for a Grammy. She worked with Michael Jackson and was the voice of Ford and Coca-Cola. All these achievements belong to Kvitka Cisyk, the daughter of immigrants from Ukraine. Today - April 4 - she could have turned 70 years old if the disease had not taken her earlier. The story of the life and success of this amazing woman with an incredible voice was told by the publication with the BBC.

Kvitoslava Cisyk was born in New York on April 4, 1953 in a family of emigrants from Ukraine - Vladimir and Ivanna Cisyk. Her parents came to the US from Lvov, fleeing Soviet repression in the late 1940s.

Kvitka's father Volodymyr Tsisyk is a virtuoso violinist, musical figure and teacher, concertmaster of the Lviv Opera House. In exile, he also taught music.

“The Cisyk family brought to New York a lot of artistic talent and a deep respect for Ukrainian culture and the Carpathians,” says the singer's husband, Ed Rakovich.

“My parents taught me good Ukrainian and, as they said, good English,” Kvitka said. In the Tsisyk house, only Ukrainian was spoken.

The singer went the way of studying two cultures - American and Ukrainian. On weekdays I went to an American school, on weekends I studied at Plast, a Ukrainian scout organization. Vladimir Tsisyk taught his daughters, Kvitka and Maria, to play the violin and piano since childhood.

Kvitka attended the State University of New York at Binghamton, then won a scholarship to Mannes College of Music. She later trained at the Ghent Conservatory, where she studied opera singing alongside the stars of the Metropolitan Opera.

advertising star

Cisik performed in clubs in New York, performed either jazz, or pop, or rock - she was looking for herself through experiments. Subsequently, she was invited to voice television and radio commercials.

At first, Kvitka worked in recording studios to pay for vocal lessons and help with the treatment of her father, who survived a stroke. But she liked to sing in the studio. Cisik had a rare soprano - a high, mobile and gentle voice. Could easily change styles. She could also sing with a very deep voice.

“When I was studying vocals, I thought that I would be an opera singer, but then I became interested in something else, such a “studio-singing”. This is singing in different styles. I saw that I can do it easily. This is music for films, for advertising,” said Kvitka Cisyk.

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In the mid-1970s, Cisyk became one of the most successful commercial songwriters.

“She recorded a rock song for a Ford commercial in the morning, a ballad for Coca-Cola at lunchtime, an anthem for the US Army in the afternoon, and a 60-second opera for AT&T in the evening,” says Ed Rakovic.

Kvitka Cisyk sang in advertisements for Coca-Cola, American Airlines, MacDonalds. In 1982, she entered into a partnership with the Ford Motor Company and subsequently became the sole voice of Ford. The promotional song “Have you driven a Ford lately” performed by her was very popular. Ford calculated that viewers saw ads with her voice about 20 billion times.

Kvitka had many invitations from musicians to participate in the recordings of their albums. She has worked as a backing vocalist for such famous artists as Michael Jackson, BB King, Barry Manilow, Michael Bolton, Linda Ronstadt and Carly Simon.

Her voice sounds in the soundtracks of famous films: "Rocky 3", "Circle of Two", in the Oscar-winning film "Business Woman". Kvitka performed on the famous The Tonight Show.


Kvitka Cisyk received an Oscar for her performance on the soundtrack to the film You Light Up My Life. But she was never given it. The conflict with the tape producer Joseph Brooks is to blame, who refused to pay her a fee for the song and removed all references to Cisyk from the credits.

Kvitka's husband recalls that story with bitterness. According to him, Joseph Brooks simply used her talent.

Both the Oscar and the Grammy were personally received by Brooks, as the author of the song “You Light Up My Life”.

An unfulfilled dream about a concert in Ukraine

Kvitka Cisyk was born in New York but appreciated Ukrainian culture. She recorded two Ukrainian-language albums: "Kvitka" in 1980 and "Two Colors" in 1989.

Recording cost the family a lot of money - 200 thousand dollars. The singer attracted top 40 New York musicians. It was a family project – her husband Ed Rakovich was the producer, her sister Maria Tsisyk played the piano, and her mother Ivanna made sure that Kvitka's Ukrainian pronunciation was perfect.

“She put her whole soul into these recordings, Kvitka was proud that she was Ukrainian,” says Ed Rakovich.

Kvitka's albums were nominated for a Grammy Award in the Contemporary Folk category.

Records of Kvitka Cisyk were smuggled into Ukraine. In the Soviet Union, her songs were banned. People copied them on cassettes and listened in secret.

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In 1983, Kvitka visited Ukraine for the first time with her mother. However, neither fans nor relatives knew about her visit. Kvitka waited many years for permission to visit her native country. During the trip, he and his mother were accompanied by several dozen KGB officers.

When Ukraine gained independence in 1991, Kvitka again planned to visit her parents' homeland with a series of concerts. But her dream did not come true. In 1992, she was diagnosed with breast cancer.

Kvitka died in New York surrounded by her family on March 29, 1998, five days before her 45th birthday.

“Knowing Kvitka and all the paths she has taken, I continue to be inspired by her,” says her husband, Ed.

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