Rasputin second lifeSunday, February 28, 2021
BY HOWARD CAMPBELL
W ith all their hit songs and international acclaim, the classic Boney M line-up never made it big in the United States. Decades after they disbanded, the group returned to the Billboard charts last week with Rasputin , their 1978 disco nod to the controversial Russian mystic.
Rasputin entered the publication's Hot Dance/Electronic Songs Chart at number 10. Renewed interest in the single came from the #rasputindancechallenge that has trended on TikTok since late 2020.
Liz Mitchell, one of four members who became famous through Boney M, keeps in tune with Rasputin's second life.
“I'm not really an Internet person, but yes, I am familiar with Tik Tok,” she joked, during an interview with the Jamaica Observer from her London home.
She is not surprised that a new generation is dancing to Rasputin, which is from Boney M's album Nightflight to Venus.
“We're in the COVID period and people are looking for things to feel good,” said 68-year-old Mitchell, who was born in Clarendon. She has lived in the United Kingdom since the early 1960s.
Mitchell joined Boney M in 1976, one year after it was formed in Germany by Franz Farian, a German impresario who later started Milli Vanilli. Fellow Jamaican Marcia Barrett, Maizie Williams from Montserrat and Bobby Farrell from Aruba were other members of the group.
Rasputin was a hit in Europe, Australia and New Zealand in 1978. Similar response was elusive in the US where their biggest success came with disco versions of By The Rivers of Babylon and the Christmas classic Mary's Boy Child.
Interestingly, the group has a massive following in Russia when that country was known as the Union of Soviet Socialist Republic. Boney M first visited there in 1978, but given Rasputin's divisive history, they were not allowed to perform the song he inspired.
Grigori Rasputin was a resident holy man in the court of Emperor Nicolas II in years leading to the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia. Some historians blame his negative influence over the royal family for their anhilliation in 1918 in St Petersburg.
Rasputin was killed on December 30, 1916 in St Petersburg by Russian nobles jealous of his influence over Nicholas II. Ironically, Farrell died on that date in that city in 2010.
Mitchell still tours as Liz Mitchell and Boney M. With attitudes toward that era less sensitive, she and her group perform Rasputin in major Russian centres such as Moscow and St Petersburg, whenever they tour there.
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