What We Know About Mikhail Gorbachev's 2003 Grammy Win

World leaders list many accomplishments on their resume. Some are expected, such as prestigious degrees from top universities, or winning awards like the Nobel Peace Prize in the case of presidents like Teddy Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, and Barack Obama, among others (via Nobel Prize). Other global heads of state, though, have legacies tarnished by war or from supporting policies that contribute to economic collapse in their country. Russian President Mikhail Gorbachev's time in office is known for many things, including "glasnost," or the thawing of Cold War tensions between the U.S. and the Soviet Union, which partially lead to the dissolution of the Soviet Union itself. Gorbachev also won two major awards in his lifetime, including a Nobel Prize in 1990. The other is much less expected (via Britannica).

In 2003, some 12 years after Gorbachev left office, the former Russian president won a Grammy. And no, the project he was awarded for wasn't in the heavy metal or hip hop category, although that would only make this story that much better. Instead, the album that Gorbachev won his Grammy for is a rerecording of one of the world's most well-known Russian compositions from one of Russia's most luminous classical composers, Sergei Prokofiev. It retells a Russian classic folktale, and Gorbachev won his Grammy alongside former American President Bill Clinton, as well as legendary Italian actress Sophia Loren. The fact that the project exists at all is testament to Gorbachev's commitment to reform, and his dedication to environmental stewardship (per the Gorbachev Foundation website).

Mikhail Gorbachev won a Grammy for 'Peter and the Wolf'

The 2003 recording project for which Gorbachev, Clinton, and Sophia Loren all won Grammys was an updated version of the Prokofiev classic "Peter and the Wolf." According to Britannica, Sergei Prokofiev (above) was commissioned by the Moscow Children's Theatre to write his adaptation of the well-known folktale "Peter and the Wolf" in 1936. Assigning an instrument to each one of the characters, such as a duck with an oboe and Peter with the string section, was Prokofiev's invention. Prokofiev also moved beyond the rhyming verse of the original version to a simple narrative structure which helped contribute to the project's success. Only a decade after the composition premiered in Moscow, it was made into an animated short film from one of early Hollywood's most beloved directors.

In 1946, Walt Disney popularized his version of "Peter and the Wolf," adding to the legacy of the piece of music as it helped build a bridge between the United States and Russia, and possibly contributing to Gorbachev's decision to participate in a rerecording some 50 years later (per IMDb). Sergei Prokofiev is one of Russia's most beloved and highly regarded composers, and the reworking that led Gorbachev to win a Grammy was undertaken on the 50th anniversary of Prokofiev's death. Gorbachev also pledged that his part of the proceeds would support an environment organization he founded 10 years earlier, further illustrating Gorbachev's commitment to global causes.

Gorbachev donated his cut to Green Cross International

The organization that Gorbachev founded was called Green Cross International, and his part in the "Peter and the Wolf" project to which he contributed (and for which he subsequently won a Grammy) went to support the group's work. Headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, Green Cross International was launched by The Gorbachev Foundation in 1993, per the group's website. The mission of the organization is to help address threats faced by humanity worldwide, including nuclear weapons, but also man-made environmental degradation, among other issues.

Per The Gorbachev Foundation website, the version of "Peter and the Wolf" to which Gorbachev contributed narration was recorded on the premises of The Gorbachev Foundation in Moscow and in Geneva. New music was contributed to the project from French composer Jean-Pascal Beintus, and updated text from American writer Walt Kraemer. The project was backed by the Russian National Orchestra (RNO). With an updated title, "Prokofiev: Peter and the Wolf/ Beintus: Wolf Tracks," this rerecording was commissioned as part of a series to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Prokofiev's death, and it was conducted by Kent Nagano. Neither Gorbachev, Clinton, nor Loren were in attendance at the 2003 Grammy ceremony to accept their awards.