I was listening to the Beastie Boys’ Ill Communication as I was mowing the grass today. The B-Boys are Buddhists and their songs often have lyrics about Tibet. They’d never be welcomed with open arms in China, I thought.
Then I remembered someone who was welcomed with open arms in China: John Denver. Denver toured China in October 1992, playing multiple cities, apparently the first Western artist to tour there. I remembered someone telling me during my visit to China that his song Take Me Home, Country Roads was one of the most popular Western songs in China.
I actually visited the karaoke bar in the basement of my Beijing hotel one night, hoping to see if this was true. I was startled to find it darkened and mostly empty save for one hotel employee who eyed me warily, prompting me to hop back onto the elevator. Still, I became amused at the imagined sound of Country Roads being sung with a Chinese accent.
Who would’ve thought John Denver would be so popular in China?