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Nikita

by

Elton John



Songfacts®:  You can leave comments about the song at the bottom of the page.

In this Cold War ballad, a westerner falls in love with an East German citizen who he cannot meet because he is not allowed to cross the Berlin Wall. This was a very revolutionary song during the Cold War, and Eastern Europeans who lived in the communist block would listen to western radio stations such as Free Europe and picked up on the sentiments.
George Michael sang backing vocals on this track. He and Elton teamed up again in 1991 for a duet version of "Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Me."
Though the song appears to be about a woman, Nikita in Eastern Europe can also be a man's name. At the time Elton John was married to German engineer Renate Blauel. Their marriage lasted 4 years, although Elton John later admitted he realized he was homosexual before his marriage.
The Ken Russell directed video has Elton John regularly crossing the border post into Communist Europe. One of the guards is Nikita, and gradually the two fall in love. The girl in the video is Anya Major, who was also the hammer thrower in a famous "1984" television commercial for Apple Computer. The video also features a red Bentley Continental Convertible, which was owned by Elton John from 1985 to 2000.
A songwriter named Guy Hobbs sued Elton in April, 2012 claiming that he wrote a song called "Natasha" in 1982 about a Western man falling for a Russian woman that worked on a cruise ship during the Cold War. He alleged that Elton stole his lyrics three years later for this song. The Grammy-winning singer argued that a successful musician like him would never lift lyrics from some no-name songwriter and also that the song's theme was too general to win copyright protection. The Illinois judge found in favor of Elton and dismissed the lawsuit.
Elton John
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Comments (11):

I was the aspiring lyricist who back in 1982 wrote a lyric called "Natasha" based on my experiences working on a Russian cruise ship - it was about impossible love between a Western Man and a Communist woman in the Cold War. In 1984 I was in London trying to find a composer / singer to complete the song. I sent the lyrics to a publisher called Big Pig, not knowing that it was not an independent publisher but was in fact Elton John and lyricist Bernie Taupin. My hook was "Natasha the freedom you'll never know". Four months later Elton and Bernie wrote a similar song about impossible love between a Westerner and a Russian. Their hook was the similar "Nikita you'll never know". I only discovered the similarities 15 years later and tried to take the case to court in a cost efficient way, but discovered it takes lots of money to get legal justice. I had 3 well established copyright experts tell me that the 2 lyrics were "substantially similar", I calculated the 2 choruses were 70% similar, I can show statistically that such a lyrical combination can only be possible by copying ... regrettably, none of this was ever presented to the court because I got shot down in flames by their expensive legal team before even getting a chance to present my full case. The similarities in the hook and the chorus were crucial to the case yet the words "hook" and "chorus" were never even mentioned in the appeal courts judgement - that's how frustrating the legal experience was. Elton and Bernie have never actually talked about where the origins of the song came from. Regrettably, I didn't get far enough down the legal road to do depositions and ask such questions. However, I have no doubt in my mind that if Natasha had not been written then Nikita would also never have happened. Under songwriting conventions, to use material contributed by another writer entitles him to be an equal co-writer - it was sad that the duo never chose to recognise the crucial contribution played by a young aspiring lyricist seeking a break into the business. I have since moved on. It's been a learning experience. I thought I could get justice but maybe I was just naive. Interestingly, the exact same year that I sent Elton my lyrics, 1984, another amateur song writer, George Saadi, gave Elton a tape of one of his songs called "Only Memories" backstage at a concert - parts of his melody was used by Elton, without permission, in the 1989 release "Whispers". Unlike me, Saadi noticed straight away. The matter was eventually quietly settled out of court. In the definitive biography on Elton called "Sir Elton", renowned author Phillip Norman says, when talking about the similarities of the duos songs to other songs, "Bernie made no attempt to conceal how many sources they had blithely plundered over the years". Finally, on Bernie's own website, he actually admits "it is common knowledge that songwriters are great thieves". Incidentally, Nikita is indeed a man's name in Russia - Elton was still in the closet at that stage - however, Bernie knew to always keep the sex of a love interest vague in a lyric. Elton was singing to a man, whereas the song's video showed Nikita to be female. Natasha, on the other hand, is indeed a common Russian female name.
- guy, cape town, South Africa
Elton John, Bernie Taupin, and Big Pig Music are being sued for plagiarism. Songwriter Guy Hobbs has filed a copyright infringement lawsuit in a Illinois federal court, alleging that he wrote a song called "Natasha" in 1982, three years before Elton released his song. "Natasha" was about 'an affair with a Russian waitress that worked on a cruise ship', was copyrighted, and sent to Big Pig Music for a publishing deal that never materialized. Elton John's publisher in 1985 was Big Pig Music. The suit is over similarity of lyrics between both songs.
- Christian, Berlin, Germany
"Nikita" by Elton John is a song that is very much debated in regards to inspiration. It has a different meaning for everyone. Sometimes we overlook the obvious, instead trying to add meaning, using what we know about the artist and possibly a lack of knowledge of history. For me, "Nikita" is Nikita Khrushchev, his aspirations and his people. The song is about him. "tin soldiers" were once a popular collector’s item. "Counting ten tin soldiers in a row" could be a way of describing Khrushchev’s attempt at political unity between the eastern block and third world countries. Khrushchev visited many countries in hope of reaching unity in order to fight capitalism, as he "rolled around the globe". "Counting ten tin soldiers in a row" could also describe ballistic missiles or an army whose members are forced to serve. It is a popular idea that Khrushchev was involved with the decision to build the Berlin wall, hence the reference. The artist asks if he ever “counts the stars at night”, a beautiful reference to the joy of everyday living, meaning perhaps we, in the west, aren’t so different as some thought. Khrushchev died a very unhappy man which could be why the artist extends his friendship at the end of the song, “And if there ever comes a time guns and gates no longer hold you in and if you’re free to make a choice just look towards the west and find a friend”. The invitation of friendship, real coexistence, could be for all.

When I heard this song, I felt very strongly that it was written about the cold war and Nikita Khrushchev “in your little corner of the globe”. Read Nikita's life story and the history of this time. Perhaps Elton John had something more important to say. This is a great song.
- redone, Universal City, CA
all this homosexuality talk, i think some people just read too much into lyrics...
- terry, va.beach, VA
This is a very clever song which can be taken as a social statement on attitudes towards homosexuality on both sides of Europe. The song highlights the difference it can be talked about openly in the West but is still very much a taboo subject in Eastern Europe. These attitudes persist even to today.
- Stella, London, United Kingdom
I am a Cold War history buff, and married to a native of the former West Berlin. I love this song, but I tend to think that Elton John really had a man in mind when he wrote. Nikita is a male name in Eastern Europe, and all border guards were men. Without exception. If Elton was dreaming about a guard standing at the Berlin Wall, it was a lovely blond man! However, I think a woman was put into the video, simply to make the song more acceptable to a wider audience.

So while the video is nice, and the message of the song is still powerful, I don't think that this is what Elton had in mind, as his forbidden love.
- roxanne, new york, NY
It can mean either 'Silver lining' or 'Unconquered' in russian. Depends on the kind of sentence, it can mean either.
- nikita, drogheda, Ireland
I actually got my name from that song. It was one of my parents favourite songs, so they named their baby girl after it! I love this song very much, and I think it is what got me my musical personality.
- nikita, drogheda, Ireland
There were plenty of Nikita's before Kruschev was around. It's an old world Russian name from the Middle Ages.
- Jas, Clifton, TX
In Eastern Europe, the name Nikita is strictly a male name. Only after this song, actually the video, was released did westerners start naming girls (and female pets) after the title Nikita. It's possible Bernie Taupin wrote this as a homosexual love song as guards at the Berlin Wall and border gates of the former Soviet Union were only ever males.
- Michael, Wallington, NJ
Although Nikita is usually a man's name in Eastern Europe, I have a spoiled rotten 5-year-old female Samoyed whom I rescued and was probably named after this song. Naming a dog after Khrushchev is probably foolhardy at best, but then again, Samoyeds are Russian dogs, and this is a great song. I am surprised that my comment is the only one.
- Darrell, Eugene
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