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Elton John Defends His Performance in Russia

by Jason St. Amand
National News Editor
Tuesday Sep 24, 2013

Last week it was reported that Elton John would be heading to Moscow in December, just a few months before the Winter Olympics in Sochi, to perform. He's received some flack about his decision but in an interview with NPR on Tuesday, the singer explains his reasoning and what he plans (not) to say to Russian President Vladimir Putin and the government.

"On one hand, I want to say, 'I'm not going and you can go to hell, you guys.' But that's not helping anyone who's gay or transgendered over there. I've been going to Russia since 1979," John said. "I've been going quite frequently, and I've always had a wonderful rapport with the Russian audiences and with the Russian people. And you know there are a lot of great Russian people out there who are outraged by what's going on, but they don't have - I don't want to abandon them.

"Now, I'll probably get criticized for going, and I can understand that. It's just that I, as a gay man and a gay musician, cannot stay at home and not support these people who have been to lots of my concerts in the past," the singer continued.

"I'm aware of the situation and I will be diplomatic. I'm not going to go into Russia and tell [Vladimir Putin] to go to hell and things like that. That's not the way things are done. You chip away at something, and you hope there will be dialogue and that the situation can get better.

"You don't just go in there with guns blazing and say, 'Well, to hell with you.' Because they're going to say, 'To hell with you, and get out of the country.' That's not going to solve anything. But if I can go there, maybe I can talk to some people in the administration," he said.

Instead of simply making a statement at the show, the musician said that he would find it "much more fulfilling to try and meet with people in Moscow and say ’ Listen, this is just, you know, this is silly. It’s a reactionary knee-jerk thing. It’s harming your reputation in the rest of the world. It’s not doing you any good. There has to be some discussion here. What you’re doing is outrageous.’"

"They can tell me to go to hell. I’ve gotta do it diplomatically, but I’m going to say what I think and what I feel," John added.

Last week the musician revealed to the British newspaper the Guardian that he would perform in Moscow in December despite Russia’s "homosexual propaganda" law.

"I’ve got to go. And I’ve got to think about what I’m going to say very carefully," the singer told the newspaper. "There’s two avenues of thought: do you stop everyone going, ban all the artists coming in from Russia? But then you’re really leaving the men and women who are gay and suffering under the anti-gay laws in an isolated situation. As a gay man, I can’t leave those people on their own without going over there and supporting them. I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I’ve got to go."

While John plans to go to Russia, Cher made headlines last week when she turned down a chance to play at the Olympic Games in January because of the anti-gay law.

"I can’t name names, but my friend called who is a big oligarch over there, and asked me if I’d like to be an ambassador for the Olympics and open the show," Cher said. "I immediately said no. I want to know why all of this gay hate just exploded over there."

Some have been critical of John’s decision to sing in Russia, including America Blog, which wrote, "No one wants to see the Russian government use the world’s most famous gay as proof that they’re really not anti-gay at all, and that their anti-gay ’propaganda’ law, and the proposed law to take children away from gay parents, aren’t really that bad because, hey, gay Elton is coming to sing! So what about all the young gay kids getting kidnapped, raped and murdered!"

You can read, or listen to, John’s full NPR interview here. He discusses coming to terms with his own sexuality, using drugs and Liberace.


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