Fans of rock singer Eddie Money are mourning his passing last week at age 70. The opener for super-groups the Rolling Stones and Santana, Money left us tapping our toes to memorable tunes such as “Two Tickets to Paradise” and “Take Me Home Tonight.”
Less well known is Money’s role in helping Alaska and Soviet “citizen diplomats” end the Cold War. Thirty years ago, the largest contingent of Soviets since World War II’s Lend Lease descended on Alaska for “Glasnost Folkfest.”
Among the Russian delegates were members of that country’s best-known rock band, the Stas Namin Group. Exiting a red, white and blue Aeroflot jet at Anchorage’s airport, the Reebok-wearing rockers leapt wildly as hundreds of screaming school kids welcomed them like The Beatles.
Their American counterpart was Eddie Money, who ventured to Alaska on the laurels of a string of hits. Following his father’s footsteps to be a New York City cop, Money dropped out of the police academy after he was fired from his rock band because they didn’t want a “pig” in the group. He then headed to San Francisco and broke through with his hit, “Baby Hold On.”
As Soviet-mania spread across Alaska, Money joined Stas Namin and another Russian band, Rondo, with concerts in Anchorage and Juneau dubbed “Superpower Rock N Roll.” They were conceived and produced by Juneau’s Dixie Belcher.
“It was a love fest. It was a happening. It was the sixties all over again – but this time with a Russian accent,” wrote one local music critic.
For years after Glasnost Folkfest, thousands of Alaskans and Russians eager for post-Cold War friendship crossed the Bering Strait to stay in each other’s homes, establish sister-city relationships and launch joint businesses.
Credit Eddie Money for his part in helping melt the Alaska-Russia “Ice Curtain.”