They may have shot to fame more than 40 years ago – but Boney M are now a TikTok sensation. The band’s classic 1978 song Rasputin has had 22 billion hits on the social media channel since Russia invaded Ukraine.
And their distinctive brand of pop, which saw the group rack up 10 UK top 10 hits – including two Number Ones – continues to inspire today’s stars such as Lady Gaga.
While artists like Beyonce talk of juggling pop stardom with motherhood, original Boney M member Liz Mitchell said that being a working mum in the music industry was a “battle”.
Jamaican-born Liz was asked to join the group when she was spotted in a musical production of Hair in Germany. Boney M went on to notch up multiple smash hits across the world, including Rivers Of Babylon, Daddy Cool and Mary’s Boy Child.
The group, a disco act put together by German music producer Frank Farian, were a chart staple before breaking up in the 1980s. A number of reunions ensured they never fell off the radar.
Bobby Farrell – dancer, DJ and the only man in the group – died from heart failure in 2010 while visiting St Petersburg.
And it was Russia’s turbulent history that proved the catalyst for one of their biggest hits. Rasputin was a song about the devilish self-proclaimed holy man who had Czar Nicholas II and his family under his spell.
When Vladimir Putin ordered the invasion of Ukraine last year, the hit was given a new lease of life.
Liz said: “We have had 22 billion hits on TikTok since the war. It’s people over the world, even my grandchildren. It’s just a song they love”
The mother of three, who is performing solo at the Henley Festival, in Oxfordshire, on July 9, close to the home she shares with her music manager husband Thomas Pemberton, is proud of Boney M’s enduring success.
Another huge hit, Ma Baker, about a gangster mother and her gun-toting sons, was sampled by Lady Gaga for her 2008 classic Poker Face.
Liz, who has four grandchildren, said: “The music is still resonating across the world and young people like my grandchildren have found it for themselves.
“I do not introduce it to them, I do not listen to my music myself, one of my grandchildren just came across it.”
And she laughed: “It’s hard for them to fathom because I’m just Grandma – and then I’m not just Grandma.”
At 70, she is still not keen on putting her feet up.
But reflecting on her early touring years and the regret of leaving her children at home, she said: “Women have always had it harder in the industry whether we want to speak about it or not. Always having to be feminine yet stand up for yourself. And the judgement that follows.
“I wanted to focus on being a mother and it’s the hardest thing when you’re out there, trying to do it, touring and you want a family.”
She continued: “When my daughter Adero was a baby I went to France.
“She was two-and-a-half-months old and I was breastfeeding at the time.
“When it was six o’clock and time for her milk I was supposed to be going on stage. My clothes were soaked. It’s not easy.
“That’s the other thing I would do differently. If I had children and I was going on the road now, I would take them with me. It pains you too much when you leave them behind like I did.
“Now I know that was a mistake and I should’ve taken them with me.”