The sound of freedom

Andras Simonyi is the Hungarian ambassador to the United States and a man after my own heart. He loves freedom and pop music, in roughly that order. Tomorrow night he speaks at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland to testify to the influence of rock music as an impetus to freedom in Communist Hungary. According to the AP article on his upcoming talk, Simonyi “is convinced rock music was as key as any political or economic factor involved in Hungary’s change [from Communism to freedom].”
Pursuing his musical interests was of course not easy in Communist Hungary: “In a nation where the governing party frowned upon rock music, Simonyi said he and his friends always found a way to gather collections. They would trade or borrow tapes and records smuggled into the country. They also would try to listen to Voice of America, Radio Free Europe and other foreign stations.”
Best of all, Ambassador Simonyi is not talking about the Captain and Tenille when he talks about the power of the music. He is a man of unerring taste: “I started out with the Beatles, but then I pretty much moved on. I embraced the really exciting and progressive part. I became a great Cream fan and Jimi Hendrix fan. There was one hero that I had, and this was Stevie Winwood, who established the group called Traffic.”
Stevie Winwood began his career as the awesome 15-year-old rhythm-and-blues shouter of the Spencer Davis Group, a British kid with an uncanny ability to sound like Ray Charles. Winwood remains a vital artist today, but as the genius behind Traffic he reached many peaks, including the classic “John Barleycorn Must Die” in 1970.
Ambassador Simonyi felt it to the bone: “It was the power of music that was really exciting. It was the rock generation of the 1960s that said, ‘Listen, we don’t like to be separated from Europe, and we don’t like this dictatorial system.’ That is how I feel about it. Of course, that might not be true for everyone, but for a big part of Hungary, the Czech Republic and Poland, this is definitely the case.”
The AP story on Ambassador Simonyi is “Hungarian ambassador equates rock music with freedom.” The companion USA Today story is “Hungarian envoy sings rock ‘n’ roll praises.” (Courtesy of No Left Turns.)


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