Red Stars

Red Stars: Personality and the Soviet Popular Song, 1955-1991

DAVID MacFADYEN
Copyright Date: 2001
Pages: 336
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt811qw
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  • Book Info
    Red Stars
    Book Description:

    David MacFadyen delves into influential and widely disseminated songs that had a profound social significance in the Soviet Union. He discusses each singer's life, showing what it was that made them famous while placing the differences in their careers and fame in the context of Soviet culture as a whole.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-6879-2
    Subjects: Music

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. ix-2)

    This is the first of three books designed to investigate a subject virtually passed over by English-language scholarship, and very rarely researched in Russia: the performers and texts of the Soviet popular song. Here I have in mind not the two specialized fields of jazz and the so-called bards, both of which have enjoyed serious attention. Instead I mean those considerably more influential and widely disseminated songs broadcast every day on Soviet radio for decades, on occasion garnering sales figures in the hundreds of millions. Songs so frequently broadcast and purchased had a profound social significance in the Soviet Union,...

  4. PROLOGUE
    (pp. 3-5)

    “Buy some tickets! Come on in! Enjoy yourself, honourable ladies and gentlemen! You’ll be amazed! The more you pay, the more you’ll see!”

    This brash invitation rang out on sunny Ukrainian fairgrounds a few years before the Russian Revolution. Inside, in the big top, moustachioed acrobats flew above strongmen, drawing gasps of amazement from tightly corseted young ladies and their earnest suitors. Outside, gypsy musicians strolled across the grass, serenading the crowds with their guitars for the price of a few coins. And at fairs and circuses very much like this, a young man by the name of Leonid Utesov...

  5. 1 THE SOVIET POPULAR SONG AFTER STALIN
    (pp. 6-32)

    In a tiny Soviet school in the late 1960s, a young teacher was having problems controlling her music class. As the boys and girls fled the room en masse, only her shouts that everybody had been awarded the lowest grade – one out of a possible five – stopped the exodus. Mercifully, she gave the students a chance to redeem themselves. Each was called to the front of the room to sing a popular song by Èdita P’ekha, entitled “The Boundless Sky.” Those who sang well were now awarded four out of five; those who sang horribly were offered the same grade...

  6. 2 LYRIC OR CIVIC: PERSONALITY AND THEATRICALITY
    (pp. 33-61)

    The Russian wordlichnost’has the same dual significance as its English counterpart, both “nature or character of self” and “celebrity.” It appears with surprising frequency after the late 1950s in interviews with Soviet singers and critical articles devoted to those performers. What is interesting, however, is not the frequency but the manner of its usage. The word is debated more than stated; its significance is unsure yet potentially great, because the singers discussed here are operating in a socialist society that continuously invests their songs with (ostensible) moral significance. Soviet songs are to be good and useful, pure and...

  7. 3 WHY SING ESTRADA? PHILOSOPHICAL CONTEXTS OF THE GENRE
    (pp. 62-79)

    In discussions of estrada in the post-Stalinist Soviet press, much is said and written around the simplest of questions: Why sing? The responses can be assessed in two ways, by looking at what singers say about their craft, and at why they might talk thus in post-Stalinist Russia. The second of these issues begs prior consideration; it will provide a broad philosophical context against which we can view the smaller, more private concerns of any one performer’s worldview.

    Estrada both fostered and reflected the cultural movement away from Stalinism that began in February 1956 with Khrushchev’s fourhour denouncement of his...

  8. 4 ÈDITA P’EKHA: GENTLE VOICE OF THE THAW
    (pp. 80-109)

    The quote above prompted this study. While working on the early poetry of Joseph Brodsky, I came across this reference in a survey by Petr Vail’ and Aleksandr Genis of Soviet culture under Khrushchev. I found it hard to imagine not only what P’ekha might sound like but also that the result would become modish. (Several Russian journalists have made attempts to transcribe her pronunciation.²) Subsequently, gathering songs, articles, reviews, and books on Soviet estrada, I came across an even clearer account of the extent to which her style caught on, in a lengthy anecdote from the late 1960s. It...

  9. 5 IOSIF KOBZON AND THE CIVIC RESPONSE
    (pp. 110-136)

    Iosif Kobzon was born on 11 September in 1937, a year which for most Russians is too mired in the horrors of the Purges to summon any other associations. While Stalin went about the nightmarish business of arresting 5 per cent of his own people as “subversives,” Kobzon began his life in the small, yet busy Ukrainian town of Chasiv Yar. The settlement is buried deep in the Donets (Donbas) coal basin, Eastern Europe’s industrial powerhouse. The region straddles Ukrainian and Russian territory, and Russia did all it could soon after the Revolution to incorporate that industry into its own...

  10. 6 IRINA PONAROVSKAIA AND SOFIIA ROTARU: IN AND OUT OF RUSSIA
    (pp. 137-175)

    Between the guiding lights of Èdita P’ekha and Alla Pugacheva in post-Stalinist estrada are several women who mark the growing importance and dimensions of personality. Two of the most important are Sofiia Rotaru and Irina Ponarovskaia. Rotaru has worked often with contemporary versions of folk songs, replete with the strings and horn sections of 1970 s’ production, Ponarovskaia in a more obviously modern, poporiented format. Rotaru was born in Ukraine, Ponarovskaia in Leningrad, and the great distances between these two places help to distinguish between two types oflichnost’ and two attitudes towards the place where that personality is cultivated...

  11. 7 LEV LESHCHENKO AND VALERII LEONT’EV: TWO NIGHTINGALES
    (pp. 176-209)

    The preceding chapter concerned two women; here we turn to two men. The reason for drawing these gender-specific pairs is to show that post-Stalinist popular culture, happy though it might often be to assign matters lyrical to women and those civic to men, in fact experienced an interplay between private and public commitment in the songs of both male and female performers. Amidst male singers, the solid, heroic stance of Kobzon shifted considerably to incorporate both subjectivity and patriotism devoid of political ideology. That shift increases between the work of Kobzon in the 1960s and Lev Leshchenko in the ’70s....

  12. 8 ALLA PUGACHEVA: REDEFINING ESTRADA
    (pp. 210-243)

    Two chapters in this book are given to Alla Pugacheva, a decision taken not on the basis of her longevity upon the stage but upon the significance of what she has done, and continues to do, on that platform. A combination of biography and musical observations is required to do that significance justice. If there is one moment that defines the initial rush of Pugacheva into the spotlight and Soviet attention, it is the song “Arlekino,” and as a consequence much attention is paid here to the way in which it was presented at an Eastern Bloc music festival and...

  13. 9 ALLA PUGACHEVA: REDEFINING PERSONALITY
    (pp. 244-267)

    In this final chapter the geography of Russia is swapped for that of the stage. The romance of Russia’s virgin territory that made geology and astrophysics such oddly modish disciplines at the time when P’ekha forged her career is now transferred to the infinitely smaller space of the estrada itself. The distance between two large and dusty velvet curtains is to be filled with a multitude of new meanings, almost all of which validate things private at the expense of those public.

    Here in the work of Alla Pugacheva,teatralizatsiiatakes to its logical extreme the processes set in motion...

  14. EPILOGUE
    (pp. 268-270)

    One of the most pleasant aspects of writing a book such as this is that I have been able to conclude each chapter with an assertion to the western reader that the careers of all seven performers discussed here are still in full bloom. True, Iosif Kobzon gives much time to the post-Soviet concerns of high business and politics, either in his own name or as supporter of Moscow’s Iurii Luzhkov. Èdita P’ekha gives regular concerts at St Petersburg’s October concert hall to mark her birthday in the summer and the passing of the old year in the winter. Her...

  15. GLOSSARY
    (pp. 271-272)
  16. NOTES
    (pp. 273-304)
  17. SOURCES
    (pp. 305-316)
  18. INDEX
    (pp. 317-319)