Friday, November 21, 2008
Dorogoi dlinnoyu - Oi niitä aikoja
This is the one song that has - perhaps more than any other pop song - raised the question of who can rightfully claim to be the original author. Päivi Paunu recorded "Oi niitä aikoja" (Oh those times) in 1968. After 2 years modest success as a folk singer, this was her big break-through and the one song she's later been labeled with. She represented Finland in 1972 Eurovision Song Contest together with Kim Floor performing the song "Muistathan". Päivi ended her professional singing career in the 80's. The original song is an old Russian romance "Dorogoi dlinnoyu" (By a long road) composed by Boris Fomin. The oldest recorded version I could find was done in the 1920's by Alexander Vertinsky, a legendary Russian singer, cabaret artist and actor who had a great influence on the Russian tradition of artistic singing. The song has since been recorded by several Russian artists. It even travelled across Europe and to the United States; Maria Schell sang it in the Richard Brooks film "The Brothers Karamazov" in 1958. An American folk singer Gene Raskin wrote English lyrics to it and performed it, with his wife Francesca, in the Greenwich Village folk circuits in New York. This first English version of the song as "Those Were The Days" was recorded and popularized in 1962 by folk group Limeliters. The Limeliters had never a true chart-topping hit record, but they were well known for their large repertoire of songs, which are performed on their more than 25 albums. Paul McCartney heard Gene & Francesca play "Those Were the Days" in a London club and recalled the song when picking material for his protégée Mary Hopkin. And the rest is of course history. It became one of the most popular songs worldwide - ever.
Updated on 15.08.2010: added Annikki Tähti's original Finnish language version (1958).
Here's the bunch: