Rockin’ Behind the Iron Curtain: To Russia With Love

Jul 11, 2017

During the Cold War, the U.S. State Department started sending jazz musicians overseas with the tactical aim of using their hot licks to thaw relations with Eastern Bloc countries. Jazz great Dave Brubeck recalls how Louis Armstrong, a.k.a. “Ambassador Satch,” won international hearts and minds with his trumpet. Band member Arvell Shaw saw Armstrong literally disarm Russian guards in East Berlin. Meanwhile, fear of nuclear war with the Soviets infiltrated American popular consciousness resulting in gospel, bluegrass and pop odes to and protests against atomic weapons. In the Sixties, the airwaves were dominated by rock’n’roll, which pirate radio stations and the Armed Forces Network piped across the Iron Curtain. AFN soldier/deejay Rik De Lisle tells about spinning tunes that helped destabilize the Berlin Wall, and Hungarian diplomat/rock guitarist Andras Simonyi and Russian musician Stas Namin talk about life in the Soviet sphere and the cultural revolution sparked by the Beatles, Traffic and Jimi Hendrix.