Vasily was the son of shoe maker. He went on to work in the print department of the Revolutionary Military Council, moving on to ROSTO. He attended Moscow State University. He adopted the nickname Kumach, a name for a variety of red cloth used to symbolize revolution. In time the nickname was added to his surname.
His satirical verses published in such papers as Rabochaia gazeta, Krest’ianskaia gazeta, Gudok, and Krokodil led to his growing popularity. He also wrote songs for the film Late for a Date (1936).
He wrote numerous songs, the most famous being probably Священная война (Svyaschennaya Voyna, 'The Sacred War'), Песня о Родине (A Song About the Motherland), Гимн партии большевиков (Hymn of the Bolshevik Party) and Как много девушек хороших (Such a lot of nice girls!), later immortalized as the Argentine Tango song Serdtse (Сердце-Heart) by Pyotr Leshchenko. He worked closely with the composer Isaak Dunayevsky.
- Kalashnikov, V. A. "Lebedev-Kumach, Vasilii Ivanovich". The Great Soviet Encyclopedia. Missing or empty
- Room, Adrian (2010). Dictionary of Pseudonyms: 13,000 Assumed Names and Their Origins. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland. p. 279.
- Alena V. Ledeneva (1998), Russia's Economy of Favours (Russia's economy of favours ed.), Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0521621747, OCLC 833245747, OL 683211M, 0521621747