Boris Grebenshchikov

Boris Grebenshchikov / Борис Гребенщиков

Published: November 24, 2016

Boris Grebenshchikov (Борис Борисович Гребенщиков) is a Russian singer-songwriter, and one of the “founding fathers” of Russian rock. He is a founding member of the seminal and long-running Russian rock band Aquarium (active since 1972). As a lyricist, Grebenshchikov has an eclectic style that combines themes of Buddhism, Russian Orthodoxy, alcohol consumption, technology, and so on. Grebenshchikov has written more than 500 songs and recorded more than 21 albums, as well as individual tracks for other bands, including Nautilus Pompilius, Kino, Shakespears Sister [sic], and Kate St. John.

Grebenshchikov formed Aquarium at age 19, together with his childhood friend Anatoliy Gunitskiy (Анатолий Августович Гуницкий). Within a few years of the band’s formation, Grebenshchikov was accepted into the prestigious Leningrad State University. During this time, Grebenshchikov’s musical activity began to take precedence over his studies, as he avidly consumed music by the Beatles, Bob Dylan, Cat Stevens, and others. During these early years, Aquarium led a countercultural lifestyle: playing in apartments, hitchhiking to out-of-town gigs, and so on. Though they did not have access to quality recording studios, Grebenshchikov and Aquarium managed to release a few DIY albums during this time. In 1976 Grebenshchikov also recorded his first solo album, On the Other Side of the Mirror Glass (C той стороны зеркального стекла).

Grebenshchikov’s big break came in 1980, when rock critic Artemiy Troitskiy (Артемий Троицкий) invited Aquarium to play at the Tbilisi Rock Festival. Rock music at this time was under intense scrutiny by the Soviet government, and Grebenshchikov lost both his job and his membership in the Komosomol as a result of the show. However, the performance also greatly increased Aquarium’s notoriety and led to their huge popularity in the 1980s. During this decade, Aquarium solidified its reputation by recording 11 full-length albums, and even made inroads in the United States after being featured on the compilation Red Wave: 4 Underground Bands from the Soviet Union.

After a failed attempt to further his career in the English-speaking world, Grebenshchikov shifted his focus into more Russian-nationalistic songs. The songs of his 1990s period would contain elements of shanson and elements of classical Russian songwriting. By the late 1990s, however, Grebenshchikov was branching out yet again, writing albums with reggae influences, as well as electronic pieces.

Grebenshchikov is still a household name in Russia. Since 2005 he has had his own weekly radio show on Radio Rossii. He is also known as a translator of Tibetan Buddhist books into Russian, and is friends with a number of well-known spiritual celebrities.

Find Boris Grebenshchikov on Amazon


Here is Grebenshchikov with “If I Go” (“Если я уйду”):


Lyrics for “Если я уйду”:

Если я уйду, кто сможет меня найти?
Если я уйду, кто сможет меня найти?
Но, если я останусь здесь, кто сможет меня спасти?

Я давно не здесь, ты прекрасна, но ты ни при чём.
Я давно не здесь, прекрасна, но ты ни при чём.
Луна в моих зрачках, ворон за моим плечом.

Окно выходит вверх, но сумрак кружит мой дом.
Окно выходит вверх, но сумрак кружит мой дом.
Утро ещё далеко, ничего, мы подождём!

Если я уйду, кто сможет меня найти?
Если я уйду, кто сможет меня найти?
Но, если я останусь здесь;
Если я останусь здесь,
Кто сможет меня спасти?


Here is “It Wasn’t Like That and It Won’t Be” (“Не было такой и не будет”):


Lyrics for “Не было такой и не будет”:

Я знаю одну песню, летит не касаясь земли.
Лето не сожжет ее, январь не остудит.
Хочешь ругай ее, хочешь хвали,
Но не было такой и не будет.

Знаю одну песню, на вкус как пожар,
Попробовавший раз не забудет.
Хватило б только сил самому возвратить этот дар.
Не было такой и не будет.

А в темных аллеях ангелы плетут кружева,
И все мои слова смыты дождем.
И эхом в тишине едва-едва –
Любимая моя, пробьемся.

Так тому и быть, да значит да,
От идущего ко дну не убудет.
А в небе надо мной все та же звезда.
Не было другой и не будет.


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About the author

Zachary Hicks

Zach Hicks is a PhD student in Comparative Literature at the University of Oregon. He is currently participating in SRAS's Home and Abroad scholarship program. His main areas of interest are twentieth-century Russian and Soviet literature, socialist modernism, and critical theory. Outside of academics his major interests are martial arts, the outdoors, and music. In Russia, he plans to continue to increase his language proficiency, to learn as much as possible about the Russian underground music scene, its tattoo culture, and to become a student of Russia’s native martial art, SAMBO.

Program attended: Art and Museums in Russia

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