Soren here, one of Radio Lab's worker bees ... With our Pop Music show on the way (the podcast will be released next week), I thought I'd prime the pump with a little personal pop music story:
When I was a kid, my family drove across the country every summer - from Montana, where we lived, to New Hampshire, where my father grew up. There was only one kind of music that played in that ‘74 Pinto station wagon as the great plains rolled by: Willie Nelson. And the favorite song was, of course, “On the Road Again.”
A couple of years ago, we took a family trip to my mother's homeland: Latvia. We landed in Riga, the capital, and then hired a car service - some guy with a car and time on his hands - to take us to a town in the countryside where my mother’s cousin lives.
Once we were out of the city, our driver, Janis Osis, turned to us and asked, “you know Willie Nelson?” When we replied with enthusiastic surprise, he started singing “On the Road Again” ... in Latvian. Thousands of miles from the plains of middle America, driving into the eastern European countryside, we were being serenaded with a bizarre rendition of our favorite family travel tune. Turns out, Janis is in a band called the “Country Stones,” and they play covers of American country songs all the time. Here’s a little video sampler:
If you want to know more about country's global appeal, including why Zimbabweans flock to Dolly Parton cover bands, keep an eye out for the Pop Music show. In the meantime, we'd love to hear your stories about country music in foreign lands.