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You took a trip to the other side

of a barrier that nobody sees

Where everyday life is centrally planned

and the people are never at ease

The freedom to believe what they want to believe,

it carries a heavy price

And being caught practicing belief

can mean thirty years on ice

Oh, how the silence is deafening

Oh, how the silence is deafening

Oh, where’s your sense of reckoning

Oh, how the silence is deafening

You got up onstage before adoring hearts

and in front of official eyes

Playing your heart out to all the kids,

the soldiers and the spies

It was the greatest concert of your life

and it was beamed all around the world

But where were you for all those in exile?

Not a single word, no

Oh, how the silence is deafening

Oh, how the silence is deafening

Oh, your silence is so deafening

Oh, how the silence is deafening

You had the chance to make yourself heard

about things that affect us all

To be the voice of the millions of our people

who are up against the wall

They’re your brothers and sisters and your flesh and blood,

not only mine

Have you left your roots


Oh, how the silence is deafening

Oh, how the silence is deafening

Oh, how the silence is deafening

Oh, how the silence is deafening

©2015 The Hesh Inc.

"TSID #2" - original AI art by The Hesh Inc.
Playing your heart out for all the kids, the soldiers and the spies.

In 1987, Billy Joel played several concerts in the Soviet Union, one of which was broadcast live around the world. It was during the period of glasnost and perestroika, when the Communist regime was supposedly ushering in a new era of 'openness' and 'restructuring.' It was all so new and exciting but after 70 years of brutal repression and obfuscation, nobody, whether in the USSR or outside of it, knew whether or not to trust it.

This concert broadcast took place while I was serving in the Israel Defense Forces, and as I sat in my commanding officer's chair listening as the show was carried live on Israeli radio, I was astounded by how Billy was exulting in how his music appeared to be breaking down the Iron Curtain even as he performed. "Check out the soldiers!" he yelled as the band vamped at the end of "Big Shot." "The soldiers are dancing! See, the soldiers are people too!" But I had been in tune with the effort to free Soviet Jews ever since I was a young child, and I had a strong dislike and distrust of Soviets and Communists. So far as I or anybody I knew who was involved in the effort to free Soviet Jewry was concerned, it was the same old situation. And as I followed Billy's progress through the USSR, I could not help but notice how he said ABSOLUTELY NOTHING about Soviet Jews, his own people, who for all we knew were still being oppressed as they had always been. So it took me very little time to compose this response. (I had also been listening to Lou Reed's Rock'n'Roll Heart at the time, and you can hear echoes of "Ladies Pay" from that album in this song as well.)

Fortunately for Soviet Jews and citizens in general, the Iron Curtain fell for good a mere four years later, and by the grace of G-d, my song about the situation was obsolete. However, since I regarded it as one of my best songs, I made several efforts to rewrite it so as to be in tune with whatever other repressive situations were happening in the world (and there is always something)—but none of it rang true. Still, I kept on performing it as it was written, introducing it with a gentle admonition to my audience that they must speak up whenever they see an injustice being committed.

In 2010 or thereabouts, my friend Izzy Kieffer and I recorded it for his second album, which was finally released in 2017. But with his agreement, I had actually released it two years earlier, on my Boardwalk Mystic collection.

Listen to it here:


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