The Socialist Sixties: Crossing Borders in the Second World

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

6 Songs from the Wood,
Love from the Fields
The Soviet Tourist Song Movement

Christian Noack

BEFORE POP AND rock took hold of North America’s and Europe’s youth, a remarkable “folk revival” seized many countries in the developed world. As Rossen Djagalov writes elsewhere in this volume, in the early and mid-1960s, singer-songwriters in the United States, England, Germany, France, and Italy were performing songs they authored with simple guitar accompaniment. More often than not these singersongwriters identified with the aims of the contemporary civil rights movement in the States (or incidentally with revolutionary and leftist governments in South America); they expressed a younger generation’s growing dissatisfaction with the dull and often hypocritical participation of their parents in a conservative postwar order. Many songs featured critical comments on contemporary society, while they borrowed musically from simple patterns of national or international folk traditions. Songs of the American or Irish folkies, French bardes, or German Liedermacher were simple and catchy enough to be learned and performed by amateurs; the international folk scene was as much about singing and playing guitar as it was about listening to music and lyrics.

The closest Soviet equivalent to this global folk revival was “guitar” or “bard” poetry that emerged during the Khrushchev Thaw and gained enormous popularity during the 1960s. Whereas their Western counterparts occasionally faced politically motivated boycotts by radio stations or attempted censorship by record companies, Soviet bards were deprived of almost any media outlet. They had to stage their concerts in the kitchens of communal flats, in the courtyards of tenement blocks, or, most importantly, outdoors. Indeed, as I will try to show in this chapter, singing and songwriting in the Soviet Union were closely tied to habits of travel and tourism. While Western lyrics frequently alluded

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