I have a Taiwanese-American friend who once served in the Peace Corps, teaching English in China. Once, she wanted to teach her Chinese students the lyrics to a familiar song in English that her student would all know. The song she ended up using was, John Denver’s “Take Me Home Country Roads.” I later got confirmation about John Denver’s popularity in China, while sitting with Chinese students who were my classmates in my MBA program. Although one of the students vehemently denied that John Denver was particularly popular in China, another Chinese student at the table turned out to be a big fan and immediately asked me about “Annie’s Song.” He asked me how John Denver was doing in my country and, unfortunately, I had to break the news to him about how John Denver had died in a plane crash a few years before.
Another example I discovered after traveling to Chile is the punk rock group, the Ramones. The Ramones are more popular now in America than they were when they were still active, but they are still somewhat of a cult group. However, when I was in Chile, I saw Ramones T-shirts everywhere, and it was teenagers who were wearing them totally non-ironically. I later learned that, at a time when the Ramones were considered has-beens in the United States, they toured extensively in South America, and they are almost viewed as big as the Beatles down there! I can believe it. You would not believe how many Ramones T-shirts I saw in Santiago of all places.