Leningrad (song)

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Leningrad single.jpg
Single by Billy Joel
from the album Storm Front
B-side "Goodnight Saigon", "Vienna", "Scandinavian Skies"
Released 1989
Format 7"
CD single
Recorded 1988-1989
Genre Rock
Length 4:06
Label Columbia
Writer(s) Billy Joel
Producer(s) Billy Joel, Mick Jones
Billy Joel singles chronology
"We Didn't Start the Fire"
"I Go to Extremes"

"Leningrad" is a 1989 song written and performed by American singer and songwriter Billy Joel. The song was originally released on his album Storm Front on the Columbia Records label, and went on to be released as a single. It was also released on his Greatest Hits, Vol. 3 compilation. The song title is derived from the former name of St. Petersburg, Russia (see Leningrad).


The song was written by Joel about a Russian clown named Viktor Razinov, whom he met while touring the Soviet Union in 1987. Throughout the song, major items of Viktor's and Joel's lives are compared to show the cultural differences and similarities of the United States of America and the Soviet Union.

In the song, Joel describes Viktor's life as one of many Soviet children who lost fathers during World War II, specifically during the siege of Leningrad. He enlisted in the Red Army, drank vodka to fight the pain, and then became a circus clown, bringing joy to Russian children.

Joel described his childhood life as being "born in 49, a cold war kid in McCarthy time." He briefly describes his life living in Levittown, and the fear of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Joel also makes a reference to the Korean War, a proxy war to the Cold War, as well as the Vietnam War.

In the end, the two meet after Billy's Leningrad concert (Viktor had journeyed across Russia to see all six of the Russian concerts), where Viktor draws a laugh from Billy's daughter Alexa, then they hug. In the song's last line Billy sings, "We never knew what friends we had, until we came to Leningrad."

The quote is printed on the single cover, but not on the cover of the 4 track CD, which instead features the titles of the extra songs: "Goodnight Saigon", "Vienna", "Scandinavian Skies".

In 2015 Viktor traveled to New York to visit Billy Joel's concert in Madison Square Garden. Because of this reunion Billy played Leningrad live, he rarely plays Leningrad live.

Chart positions[edit]

Chart (1989/1990) Peak
Belgian Singles Chart (Flanders)[1] 17
Dutch Top 40[2] 15
French Singles Chart[3] 76
German Singles Chart 14
UK Singles Chart 53

Year-end charts[edit]

Chart (1990) Position
German Singles Chart[4] 97

See also[edit]