Born in the town of Segezha, he moved to Moscow with his parents in 1939. In the fall of 1941, he was evacuated to Kyrgyzstan, together with the Academy of Military Engineers, where his father, Fedor Grigorievich Shpalikov, served. He returned to Moscow in 1943. His father was declared missing in action in Western Poland in 1945 during World War II. In 1947 the poet was sent to study in Kiev's military cadet school (Киевское Суворовское военное училище). His first work was published in 1955. In 1956, after receiving a wound during training, he was discharged and successfully applied to the screenwriting faculty of VGIK (ВГИК), a premier film school in the Soviet Union. In 1959 he married Natalya Ryazantzeva, another aspiring screenwriter. In 1960 his script was approved for filming, but the young director V. Kitaysky killed himself, putting film on hold. In 1964 he wrote his most famous film, "I Step Through Moscow", for Georgian born director Georgi Danelia. In 1966, the only film he both wrote and directed, "Long Happy Life" received a prize at the Bergamo Film festival. Gennady died in 1974.
Sergey Nikitin wrote melodies for many of his poems.