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In addition to his writing and recording career, John Denver was a political activist, and in 1985 when he toured the Soviet Union he was moved greatly by a visit to the Piskaryovka Memorial Cemetery where literally hundreds of thousands of victims of the Siege of Leningrad are buried. He also met Alexander Gradsky, the leading singer-songwriter in Russia, and the following year at the Melodiya Studios in Moscow they recorded this anti-war number, from both US and Soviet perspectives.
Denver commissioned a short film for the song, which was put together from archive footage by his friend Obie Benz. This is believed to have been the first time an American and Soviet artist had performed together in a music video. As well as sharing the vocals with Gradsky, the recording included the Red Army Chorus "to go behind the spirit and the meaning" of the song.
Denver himself said this was simply the best piece of work that he had ever produced in his career. (thanks, Alexander Baron - London, England, for all above)
This song precipitated a split between Denver and his record company RCA, which had recently been acquired by General Electric, who had military contracts and really couldn't have an artist singing about the issues in that song. Denver and RCA weren't on the best terms anyway, and there's a good chance they would have parted regardless of this song. Denver began recording on his own Windsong label, which is where he released material by the Starland Vocal Band, famous for the single "Afternoon Delight
." (thanks to Mary at john-denver.org
The good doctor shares some candid insights on recording with Phil Spector and The Black Keys.
A band so baffling, even their names were contrived. Check your score in the Ramones version of Fact or Fiction.
Gary Louris of The Jayhawks
The Jayhawks' song "Big Star" has special meaning to Gary, who explains how longevity and inspiration have trumped adulation.