Leonid Mikhailovich Kharitonov was born September 18, 1933 in the small village of Golumet in the Irkutsk region in harsh and beautiful Siberia, near Lake Baikal. There, songs are sung broadly and with abandon, as broad and boundless as the rivers of Siberia. Leonid heard and loved these songs since childhood. His father went missing at the front during World War II; so he was raised by his mother and lived for a while with an uncle as well. At age 14, Leonid studied welding at the Vocational School of Irkutsk. It was then that he started to sing. When Leonid was 17 years old, he worked as a stagehand in the Theater of Musical Comedy in Irkutsk and sang in the opera ensemble at the Irkutsk Philharmonic. At the age of 19, after performing as a soloist for the Irkutsk Philharmonic for 2 years, he was accepted by the Moscow Conservatory. In 1953, Kharitonov became a member of the choir of the renowned Red Song and Dance Ensemble of the Soviet Army (now known as the Alexandrov Ensemble.) From 1956 to 1959, while still with the choir, he studied at Gnessin State Musical College. In 1965, he made his public debut as a soloist at a concert in Tchaikovsky Hall in Moscow. In Paris in 1967 at the Stars of the World charity concert, in competition with such world celebrities as Franco Corelli, Fernandel, Nicolai Ghiaurov, and the Beatles, Kharitonov received the title of Best Singer of the Year. Also in 1967, he was awarded Honoured Artist of Russia.
Upon leaving the Alexandrov Ensemble in 1972, Kharitonov became a member of the Moscow State Philharmonic Society and remained with that organization until 1998. During this time, he performed frequently on radio and television. On tour, he visited the entire country and appeared several times at the State Kremlin Palace concert hall. He was considered the pride of Russia, and sang at concerts for the government and for foreign delegations. During the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s, Kharitonov went on tour abroad to many different countries, including Czechoslovakia, England, Scotland, the United States, China and Australia. In 1974, he appeared in a full-length television film, “Honored Artist of the RSFSR, Leonid Kharitonov Sings“. In 1986 he was awarded People’s Artist of Russia. Performances during the 1980s and 1990s included a televised concert, “Song, Romance, Waltz“, accompanied by the Osipov Orchestra of Russian Folk Instruments conducted by Nikolai Kalinin (1987), and a solo concert in Tchaikovsky Hall with the Osipov Orchestra (1991). From 2001-2005, he gave a series of concerts in Moscow and Siberia.