The Socialist Sixties: Crossing Borders in the Second World

By Anne E. Gorsuch; Diane P. Koenker | Go to book overview

5 Guitar Poetry, Democratic Socialism,
and the Limits of 1960s Internationalism

Rossen Djagalov


A Specter Is Haunting the World

During the 1960s new and curious figures were sighted simultaneously in different parts of the world. Whether bardy in the Soviet Union, Liedermacher in East and West Germany, cantautori in Italy or Latin America, auteurs-compositeurs-interpreteurs in France, or singer-songwriters in the USA, those figures brought together a new type of an audience to listen to their poetry, which they usually sang to the accompaniment of their own guitars. In every culture in which they appeared, they were deeply rooted in local poetic, musical, and performative traditions, yet everywhere their performance exhibited several fairly constant characteristics: a powerful potential to construct counterpublics; a critique of the state, whether of a state socialist or capitalist variety; and a tense relationship with the musical industries. These are the commonalities that place on the same plane such seemingly disparate and deeply national phenomena as the Russians Bulat Okudzhava and Vladimir Vysotskii, the Poles Jacek Kaczmarski and Edward Stachura, the Czech Karel Kryl, the Germans Wolf Biermann and Franz Josef Dagenhardt, the Frenchman Georges Brassens, the Italians Luigi Tenco and Fabrizio De Andre, the Cuban Carlos Puebla, the Chilean Victor Jara, and the Americans Pete Seeger, Phil Ochs, and the pre-electric Bob Dylan.

There is no single recognizable name for the international cultural formation represented by these performers. Many of them could be found under the “Bob Dylan of [insert the name of the country]” entry of Wikipedia. The absence of a single, international category to designate the phenomenon has meant that for the few Russians who

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