Because I really have no way of knowing who exactly reads my blog, I don’t know if you, the reader, know many things about me personally beyond what I write about here every other week. For instance, you may not know that my absolute favorite singer is Billy Joel, you know, as in “The Piano Man.” And, while knowing that little piece of trivia about me is merely that, a little piece of trivia, today I wanted to share something about Billy Joel that to me is more than merely a little piece of trivia. You see, in 1987 Billy Joel was invited to the Soviet Union to put on the first fully-staged rock and roll show. While he and his family were there, they took video footage of what life was like in that country shrouded in mystery. And, a few weeks ago, undoubtedly to coincide with the Winter Olympics that just took place in Russia, the cable network Showtime aired a documentary based on that trip and that show from 1987. It was fascinating, and not just because I am a fan of Billy Joel. He talked about how, because the Cold War was still going on at that time, he was very curious to go into this country and learn about the people that were supposedly our dreaded enemies. There was a clip from a press conference that was held before he actually went, and in that press conference he said, “I’m not going there as a politician, I’m going there as a musician.” And, so he did. The documentary went on to highlight specifically what happened on opening night of his concert series. He said that the best seats had been reserved for the social elite and dignitaries. And, he also said that as soon as the music started, all of those people put their fingers in their ears, as if to say, “this crazy music, it’s too loud!” Not long after the concert began, then, these people left the concert hall and gave their tickets to the youth who were waiting outside, unable to get in. He said these young people rushed the stage, and were jumping around, playing air guitar and air drums. And, in that moment, they were free. He talked about how the young people that he encountered while he was there had an idea of what freedom was and they knew they wanted it. He said it bore a resemblance to America in the ’60’s – the young people had long hair and wore beads and flashed “peace signs” to the cameras.
There is something timely about this story as we consider what it means to be free. Sometimes it can appear as if certain people are forever destined to be held captive. But, this documentary reminded me that, although sometimes the attainment of freedom takes much longer than those of us who live in a free country would hope, that nonetheless progress is being made.
When we have the courage to meet people that we think are different than us, oftentimes we learn that maybe they aren’t so different after all. And, in that moment, the seed of freedom is planted.
If you want to be inspired, and hear some GREAT music, check out Billy Joel’s Showtime documentary. You won’t regret it – my guarantee!