- Associated Press - Wednesday, January 5, 2011

MOSCOW (AP) - Russian investigators say Boney M singer Bobby Farrell _ whose group Boney M topped the 1970s European charts with glittering showmanship and a dance floor filling blend of disco and Calypso music _ died of heart disease.

Farrell, a 61-year-old native of Aruba, was found dead Dec. 30 in his hotel room in St. Petersburg, where the group had come for a performance.

The frontman had appeared as scheduled at a concert in the city the night before, but Farrell complained of breathing problems before and after the show, his agent, John Seine, said at the time.

Sergei Kaptionov, a spokesman for the St. Petersburg branch of Russia’s Investigative Committee, was quoted by Russian news agencies on Wednesday as saying the death was due to heart disease and it was not a criminal matter.

Boney M had 38 top 10 hits, including 15 number ones in Germany. They included “Brown Girl in the Ring” and “Mary’s Boychild.” Their version of “By the Rivers of Babylon” sold nearly 2 million records in Britain alone, keeping it No. 1 for five weeks in 1978.

The same year, Boney M became the first Western music group invited by a Soviet leader, Leonid Brezhnev, to perform in the Soviet Union. A Soviet military plane flew the performers from London to Moscow, where they sang for an audience of 2,700 Russians in Red Square.

Alphonso “Bobby” Farrell left his home on the Caribbean island of Aruba at 15 to work as a sailor, then drifted to Norway and Germany to pursue a career as a DJ, according to his official biography.

He was chosen in 1974 to front Boney M, put together by German singer and songwriter Frank Farian, who did much of the recorded singing while Farrell was more a dancer and showman.

The band, based in Germany, broke into the charts with “Daddy Cool” and “Sunny” in 1976.

The original group of Farrell and three women broke up in 1986 and Farrell, who lived in Amsterdam, continued on his own or with various female back-up singers, maintaining his flamboyant style and flashy costumes. In recent years he toured under the name Bobby Farrell’s Boney M.