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Conway Twitty basically single-handedly helped broker peace with the Russians in 1975.
How, you ask? By singing his legendary song “Hello Darlin’” in space!
1975 saw the last launch of the Apollo program, which was replaced by the space shuttle. The very last mission was called the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project (ATSP) because it was going to dock with the Russian Soyuz capsule in space.
The commander of ATSP, Thomas Stafford, decided that in spirit of working together, he wanted to give the Russian cosmonauts a special gift. Stafford gave the one and only Conway Twitty a call to see if he would record “Hello Darlin’” in Russian.
Twitty happily obliged, although he thought it was a joke at first, and even took lessons from a professor at Oklahoma University to learn Russian! The professor was in studio with him during recording sessions to make sure he was using the correct pronunciations.
In Twitty’s autobiography, he wrote about the process of this historical event.
“The professor would say ‘No, no, no,’ when I got the accent wrong. Having told me that the title translated into ‘Privet Radost’ in Russian, first problem was that I’d say the words softly and he would shout more ‘no-no’s’ at me. We went around and around, and it took him forever to understand that you don’t just holler ‘Privet Radost’ at a woman. ‘In Russia they do,’ he replied.”
Twitty remembers July 17, 1975 very clearly. He had just finished a show in Los Angeles and was watching Walter Cronkite in his dressing room with some friends. On this particular day, all the astronauts and cosmonausts were up in space in the same capsule.
“The camera was focusing on them,” he writes. “And out the window you could see the earth spinning below. All of a sudden, the talking stopped and the song started playing: ‘Privet Radost.’ That song was played in Russian all around the world. I don’t know how many millions of people heard it–the only time anything like that had ever happened! It was a tremendous experience.“
Take a listen to Conway Twitty’s groundbreaking and historical version of “Hello Darlin’“, “Privet Radost” below.
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