sitting on the edge of the sandbox, biting my tongue

March 26, 2013

Next Year in Jerusalem

Filed under: music, Soviet Union — Tags: , , , — edge of the sandbox @ 9:52 pm

Gorod(City) was one of my favorite Russian underground songs.  It’s simple, serene and mysterious, and I fell in love with it when I first heard it, in my early teens.  That version was performed by a group called Aquarium, and most Russians still attribute the authorship to the lead singer Boris Grebenshchikov (nicknamed BG).  I don’t think he still claims it, but at some point he probably did.

Appropriately enough, Gorod’s origin is shrouded by mystery.  In the late 80s a girlfriend of mine told me that BG stole it from some singer songwriter, altering the lyrics.  She said that the original version used quotes from the Bible which BG bastardized.  I knew about the accusations of plagiarism when I was getting married, fifteen years later, but I loved the song so much, I chose the Aquarim version of the song for the father-daughter dance.  I didn’t know where to find the original, plus, plagiarism or not, I loved BG’s execution, which always took me back to my teens — it’s very Soviet Union in the 80s.

Zeev Heizel did a thorough investigation of the origin of the song, and concluded that the melody was created by an amateur Russian lute player Vladimir Vavilov in the late 1960s, and that it was inspired by Italian Renaissance composer Francesco da Milano.  Poet Anri Volohonsky wrote the lyrics in 1972, and Aquarium recorded their hit in the 80s.

English translation of the Aquarium version is following:

Under the blue sky
Is a city of gold
With translucent gates
And a bright star
And in that city is a garden
Of grass and flowers
Animals of unseen beauty
Stroll there
One is a lion with a mane of fire
Another is an ox with stupendous eyes
With them is the golden celestial eagle
Whose look of light is unforgettable

But in the blue sky
Shines a star
She is yours oh my angel
She is yours forever
One who loves is beloved
One who shines is a saint
Let the star lead you
To the miraculous garden
To meet the lion with a mane of fire
And the ox with stupendous eyes
With them is the golden celestial eagle
Whose look of light is unforgettable

Ever since my bff told me that the lyrics were based on Biblical verses, I thought that the song was about Jerusalem.  And maybe the text was based on the scriptures, only in the original version the city was not “under”, but “over” the blue sky, the heavenly Jerusalem.  Anyhow, I think it’s appropriate to celebrate Passover with the Hebrew version of Gorod, with a very thick Russian accent, performed by Zeev Heizel:

Happy Passover and happy Easter to my Christian friends.

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1 Comment »

  1. Wishing you a very happy Pssover, Edge.

    Comment by Jim at Asylum Watch — March 27, 2013 @ 8:54 am


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