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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

He Wrote the Song That Makes the Whole Summit Sing

Neil Glick was having a late dinner one balmy July night when he got the call that would put him on the cutting edge of musical diplomacy.


"It happened right here, at the table of history," Glick says, sitting in his one-room Frunzenskaya apartment, recalling the night a former colleague called urging him to help out a friend. The friend in need, it turned out, was Pavel Ovsiannikov, the conductor of the presidential orchestra, and he needed an American to translate the lyrics of a song he was writing for the Yeltsin-Clinton summit.


But Glick, who works for the American Chamber of Commerce in Moscow, did more than just translate. He took artistic license, preserving the meter of the song without changing its meaning. Ovsiannikov and the Russian lyricist, Boris Dubrovin, were so taken with his words,that they decided to change some of the original lyrics. Even Yeltsin's protocol team liked them, after they retranslated his translation back into Russian so it could be approved by an army of bureaucrats.


The first ever summit theme song, appropriately titled "Russia and America," was initially intended as a present for President Bill Clinton. After all, a Russian president cannot exactly show up at a Washington summit empty-handed. But what started as an exercise in protocol may strike a new chord for Russian-American relations.


"Two shores, distant strangers, worlds apart. Divided by an ocean of doubt and fear," the song opens, conjuring dark memories of Cold War days. But "Russia and America" does not dwell on the past. It's a peppy, let-bygones-be-bygones kind of tune. "Though not sisters, we're close as can be," the chorus booms. "Russia and America: Our understanding -- it starts with me."


And if you like the lyrics, you'll love the video, to be broadcast Thursday on Russian and American television. It opens with a shot of Moscow's Bolshoi Theater and fades dramatically to reveal Washington's Capitol. "They were supposed to shoot the video on the White House lawn," said Glick, but then a plane crashed on it.


"I've never had more fun in my life," said Glick, who is enjoying his new role as court lyricist. "I've already volunteered for any world leaders coming to Moscow. Like the Queen -- I really want to write a song for the Queen," he said.