The Westwind Music

Hooray! Hooray! It’s Liz Mitchell's birthday

Even for those who are not intimately familiar with Boney M’s discography, ‘Rasputin’ is a cult classic. I have grown up with the tunes of Boney M playing in the background as I danced along to the beats. ‘Rivers of Babylon,’ ‘Brown Girl in The Ring’ and of course, their Christmas album, which was played unfailingly umpteen times every December, was a big part of my childhood. Today on the birthday of Liz Mitchell, the band’s lead singer, let’s remember one of the most popular groups that I feel deserve much credit for making Western music this popular in India.

In fact, in the past few years, this iconic group has made appearances in India. And not just Boney M, its counterpart ABBA wave too swept the country in the 1970s, the era of tape recorders.

Formed in 1976 by German producer, songwriter and singer Frank Farian, this carefully cultivated Euro-Carribean vocal group was assembled to lip-sync to Farian’s single ‘Baby Do You Wanna Bump?’. Fraught with scandals but brimming with talent, the group’s fame is legendary and even in the light of the revelations of lip-syncing, they managed to remain a household name.

Liz Mitchell, Marcia Barrett, Maizie Williams and Bobby Farrell were hailed as Euro-disco sensations, who got an entire generation across the globe hooked to the genre. They also sang R&B and reggae. The band’s flamboyant frontman and dancer, who often performed with a bare torso and tight-fitting bell-bottom pants, is said to have made no vocal contributions to their record-breaking albums; his parts were actually sung by Farian.

‘Daddy Cool’ became Boney M’s first hit, when it topped the German music charts in 1976. The next year, they released ‘Ma Baker’ and ‘Belfast’, which were super hits as well. It was in this year that the group began its major tours.

In 1978 came ‘Rasputin,’ the single from their album ‘Nightlife to Venus’. With its success Boney M created history of sorts. The summer of 1978 saw them reach the peak of popularity when they released the double-A-sided ‘Rivers of Babylon/Brown Girl In The Ring’ .

As sudden and dramatic as their fame was, so was their fading away from the spotlight. While Farian tried to save the group from disbanding , he wasn’t successful and Boney M officially bid goodbye in 1986. Post-split, the group was kept alive by the members, who did tours with their independent line-up.

Coming to the birthday girl, Liz Mitchell, who turns 67 today, she embarked on a solo career with a group of her own. Calling her acts as Boney M feat Liz Mitchell, last year she performed concerts to celebrate 40 years of ‘By the rivers of Babylon’ and ‘Rasputin.’

In 2010, Bobby Farrell was found dead in a St. Petersburg hotel. Ironically in the same city where Grigori Rasputin met his end.

Farian tried recreating success, more than a decade later, with the duo Milli Vanilli. They did become successful, even winning a Grammy, but were embroiled in a much bigger scandal.

Though Boney M was largely considered a manufactured pop act, put together by Frank Farian, it spawned many imitations. But none could match the original that sold over 100 million records. The band still evokes nostalgia and its innumerable fans would wish it is ‘Born Again.’

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Printable version | Jun 22, 2021 7:58:08 AM |

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