The Story of... 'Rasputin' by Boney M

1 May 2021, 18:16

Boney M's Rasputin
Boney M's Rasputin. Picture: Getty/BBC/YouTube

By Tom Eames

Boney M were one of the biggest pop groups of the late 1970s, known for their infectious party anthems and dancefloor fillers.

The group were also known for releasing quirky yet brilliant pieces of pop music, which shouldn't necessarily have worked on paper, particularly one song about an infamous Russian mystic.

Boney M's song 'Rasputin' was a mini-history lesson about Grigori Rasputin, a holy man who got rather close to the family of Russia's Nicholas II, and who met a grisly end.

Amazingly, the group's 1978 song is back in the charts thanks to a new remix of the song and its heavy use on TikTok.

Here's a little guide to the unlikely pop favourite:

  1. Who were Boney M?

    Boney M
    Boney M. Picture: Getty

    Boney M were a Euro-Caribbean pop group, created by German record producer Frank Farian, who was also the group's main songwriter.

    Originally based in West Germany, the four original members of the group were Liz Mitchell and Marcia Barrett from Jamaica, Maizie Williams from Montserrat, and Bobby Farrell from Aruba.

    They were formed in 1976, and quickly achieved huge popularity during the disco era of the late 1970s. The group still exist in some form to this day, but don't have any of the original members.

    Boney M sold around 80 million records worldwide, and their biggest hits included 'Daddy Cool', 'Ma Baker', 'Sunny', 'Mary's Boy Child/Oh My Lord' and 'Rivers of Babylon'.

  2. Who wrote Rasputin?

    'Rasputin' was written by Boney M's creator Frank Farian, along with George Reyam and Fred Jay.

    The song is about Grigori Rasputin, a friend and advisor of Tsar Nicholas II of Russia and his family during the early 20th century.

    Boney M mastermind Frank Farian
    Boney M mastermind Frank Farian. Picture: Getty

    The song's male vocals were mimed by Bobby Farrell, which was custom for the group until the 1980s - with Farian actually providing the voice.

    Frank Farian's American friend Bill Swisher, who was also a soldier in Germany at the time, provided spoken vocals as a newsreader.

  3. Who was the real Rasputin?

    Grigori Rasputin in 1905
    Grigori Rasputin in 1905. Picture: Getty

    'Rasputin' references the hopes that were raised by Tsaritsa Alexandra Fyodorovna, after Grigori Rasputin claimed he would heal her hemophiliac son, Tsarevich Alexei of Russia.

    The song also claims that Rasputin was having an affair with Alexandra: "Ra Ra Rasputin, lover of the Russian queen, there was a cat that really was gone", and "Russia's greatest love machine".

    Tsar Nicholas II Of Russia With His Family
    Tsar Nicholas II Of Russia With His Family. Picture: Getty

    It also claims that Rasputin's political power was larger than that of the Tsar himself in "all affairs of state". However, wheen his sexual and political acts went too far, "men of higher standing" aimed to bring him down, although "the ladies begged" them to not do so.

    The song also says that "he was a brute", and that the ladies "just fell into his arms."

    The finale of the song tells the tale of Rasputin's assassination, as carried out by Felix Yusupov, Vladimir Purishkevich, and Dmitri Pavlovich, on December 16, 1916. The song claims that Rasputin was finally shot and killed after he survived the poisoning of his wine.

    While the song is said to accurately tell of Rasputin's story, there is no official evidence that he had an affair with Alexandra.

  4. How did it perform in the charts?

    'Rasputin' topped the charts in Australia, Germany and Austria, and went to number two in the UK and Switzerland.

    Although it was written and performed in English, with a few German and Russian words thrown in, it was a big success in the Soviet Union, and was even credited with reviving the fame of Rasputin in the country.

  5. Why is it back in the charts in 2021?

    In late February 2021, thanks to a resurgence of the song on Tik Tok, North London DJ and producer Majestic released a new remix of the song credited to 'Majestic x Boney M'.

    This version - essentially the full song with a different beat - has reached the official charts in the UK, US and Europe.

    It was brought back to life thanks to a TikTok challenge that sees users flexing their muscles for a whole entire clip, because... why not.

    'Rasputin' had 6.5 million streams and 2,600 downloads sold outside the US in the week ending April 22 alone.