Blondie is just the latest group of musicians to turn down an offer to play at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, as some musicians in the West have refused to play at this year’s Olympic Games as a sign of protest against Russia’s anti-gay laws and Putin’s oppressive regime as a whole. While the Olympics themselves are an international event and do not endorse Russia’s homophobic policies, some very famous musicians have elected to boycott, protest against, or turn down playing the 2014 Winter Olympics because of the Olympic committee’s choice to hold the event in Russia. Here’s a look at the musicians who have protested the Olympics in Sochi in various ways.
Blondie frontwoman Debbie Harry last Friday tweeted a photo of the letter the band received offering them a 45-minute gig playing at the Sochi Olympics with the words “PASS” and “Human Rights” scribbled over it. The proposed performance would have taken place this Thursday on the main stage of the Sochi Medals Plaza, which has a capacity of 45,000.
“Blondie has always been a part of the downtown community in NYC, with many, many friends who represent alternative lifestyles,” frontwoman Debbie Harry said in a statement sent to the Huffington Post. “We feel very strongly about these friendships and associations, and don’t feel good about participating in a situation where biases and prejudices are paramount.” Blondie also headlined the recent Amnesty International concert to benefit human rights, which was held the day before the start of the Olympics. Other performers at the Amnesty International concert held at the Barclays Center last week included Cake, the Flaming Lips, Lauryn Hill, Imagine Dragons, Teagan and Sara, and others.
In an interview with the Canadian magazine Maclean’s given back in September, Cher said that she was offered to perform at the Olympics opening ceremony but decided to turn it down.
“I can’t name names but my friend called who is a big oligarch over there, and asked me if I’d like to be an ambassador for the Olympics and open the show. I immediately said no. I want to know why all of this gay hate just exploded over there. He said the Russian people don’t feel the way the government does,” she told the publication. Given how vocal Cher has been in supporting LGBTQ rights throughout her career, the move doesn’t come as much of a surprise.
Pop icon Madonna has been highly outspoken regarding Russia’s anti-gay laws recently. She took her controversial M.D.N.A. tour to Russia in 2012 and used the performance to advocate for gay rights and the release of the then-jailed members of the Russian feminist punk band Pussy Riot. Madonna later said that Putin threatened her with jail time for “promoting gay behavior” and that she received death threats related to the Russian gig. Madonna spoke about her experiences in Russia while introducing the two recently-released Pussy Riot members at the recent Amnesty International concert for human rights held in Brooklyn. While the event was ostensibly about human rights everywhere, the focus was on Russia as the event was held on the eve of the beginning of the Winter Olympics.
“Needless to say, I did not change one moment of my show. 87 of my fans were arrested for gay behavior — whatever that is,” Madonna said at the event, per UK publication The Independent, about her experience performing in Russia. “I’ve always considered myself a freedom fighter since the early ‘80s when I realised I had a voice and I could sing more than songs about being a material girl or feeling like a virgin.”
Two recently released members of the Russian all-female art collective and punk rock band Pussy Riot were released from jail back in December after being sent to serve time in a penal colony for hooliganism and propagating religious hatred after giving a performance of a song entitled “Punk Prayer — Mother of God Chase Putin Away” at the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow. Their imprisonment gained the group a huge amount of international attention and support.
Pussy Riot members Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina have been on a press tour of the West after their release, saying that they believe Putin only allowed them to go free as a publicity stunt in advance of the Olympics. But the women have used their freedom to speak out against Putin’s regime and to call for the world to boycott the Olympics at Sochi.
“I’m calling for a boycott, for honesty. I’m calling [on Western governments] not to give in because of oil and gas deliveries from Russia,” Tolokonnikova said immediately after her release from a Siberian prison, per the BBC.
In a very weird twist, one of the only musical acts from Russia that has had any international impact since the days of the composer Tchaikovsky is the fake-lesbian pop duo called t.A.T.u., who performed at the Olympics opening ceremony. The women from t.A.T.u. are most known for their 2002 hit “All The Things She Said” and for being promoted as a lesbian couple before being ‘outed’ as heterosexuals. The ladies performed “All The Things She Said” and another less-successful hit “Not Gonna Get Us” while holding hands at the ceremony.
T.A.T.u. was tentatively included in this list because, for now, the jury’s out on whether their performance was a slight rebellion against Putin’s anti-gay laws, as the ladies were originally marketed as lesbians and have spoken in support of gay rights even after the gay community was less than thrilled to discover that their relationship was just a marketing ploy, or if this was a pathetic attempt on the part of the Russian regime to pretend to be more accepting. The most likely explanation, however, is that t.A.T.u. is basically the only Russian pop group to become even slightly recognized internationally and so the country had little choice other than to have them perform.
More From Wall St. Cheat Sheet:
- 6 Musicians Who Have Been Arrested For Their Political Beliefs
- Pussy Riot Press Tour Doesn’t Help Russia’s Image
- 10 Most Anticipated Albums of 2014
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