For this new column, I chose an artist in every sense of the word, Nina Hagen .
Nina Hagen (née Catherina) is a singer-songwriter, sometimes even an actress, born in East Germany in 1955. She defected to the west thanks to her father who was an actor. He had received permission in 1975 to go play on West German television, but that was not his astonishment when he wanted to return to East Germany to have his return visa refused. This gave Nina Hagen the opportunity to ask to go join her father on the pretext that she did not want to be without him. (By the way she was raised by her mother and had almost no contact with her father’s parent). She tells them that he was her biological (real) father and only 4 days later her visa application west was granted.
She moved to Hamburg and was quickly signed to a CBS Records sub-banner in 1977. She formed the Nina Hagen Band and record the album Nina Hagen Band in German. The album gave her some recognition, (250,000 albums sold), enough to lead her to London where she befriended artists like The Slits and The Sex Pistols to name a few.
The tensions in the group being made unbearable during the European tour of 1979, Hagen left the group, but being bound by a contract, she had in spite of herself to record a second album. She recorded her voices from Los Angeles while the musicians’ soundtracks were recorded in Berlin. The album Unbehagen which, when translated into French means ‘discomfort’, allowed her to showcase her special vocal talents and make her stand out as a somewhat o ff the wall .
The hit African Reggae and the cover of a song by Lena Lovitch, Lucky Number, in German Wir Leben Immer … Noch are the highlights of this album.
Her band had some success in Europe afterwards without her under the name of Spliff . Noteworthy Nina Hagen and Lena Lovitch are much the same kind of avant-garde artists who have taken the New Wave movement to the max. They have often worked together in the past. We are far from Blondie with these two artists!
Following a very controversial interview on an Austrian television station in 1979, about the dress and the way of being of the young people of the time when Hagen was trying to explain herself, she proceeded to demonstrate (everything while remaining well dressed), the different ways of masturbating in the feminine. She was pretending, touching herself and moaning loudly in the studio. She immediately became a very controversial personality. Moreover, the host of talk show had to submit his resignation the next day. Hagen had finally arrived.
She became for many years the girlfriend of Herman Brood, also a performer in the Punk and New Wave scene of the time, and even became an actress with him and Lena Lovitch in the cult 1979 film. Chacha . This film is more of a jam studio and served as a platform for Herman Brood to promote his band Herman Brood and His Wild Romance .
A very special anecdote on the soundtrack of the film, is the cover of Bob Dylan Knocking on Heavens Door who for the occasion is named Herman’s Door where Nina Hagen tells in broken English, a story about Syd Vicious (Sex Pistols) who was in a lousy hotel in London with Nancy, her and Herman Brood, and who were looking for Nancy, but who in the end meet, simply because that she was in Herman Brood’s room completely passed out. Knock Knock Knocking on Herman’s Door was recorded with Herman Brood and Lena Lovitch at back vocals .
The album is available on vinyl (good luck finding it), oh yes, I have it… .. This album shows you all the vocal qualities of Nina Hagen who can sing opera, like very heavy punk . Many years later and this long after Herman Brood committed suicide (heavy drug addiction problem), she would call him her soul mate.
Subsequently in 1982, she signed a contract with CBS Records and released a first solo album, Nunsexmonkrock , a fairly innovative and controversial title you will agree. This album was the first Fearless (1983) and Nina Hagen in Ekstasy (1985), before seeing his contract not be renewed.
In 1989 she signed a contract with Mercury Records and released the eponymous album Nina Hagen followed by Street , and the album In Ekstasy . These albums did not meet with the hoped-for success, apart from the album In Ekstasy, the hit dance Universal Radio, Norman Greenbaum’s 1969 cover Spirit in the Sky in addition to the song by Paul Anka, My Way, punk version, which was one of his audience’s favorite songs live . In 1989 she signed with Mercury Records and made three albums, Nina Hagen , Street and Revolution Ballroom . Unfortunately none of these albums earned her the recognition she deserved. Very good albums in my opinion.
Having become at that time a recognized personality she is often invited in Talk shows and speaks especially of aliens, (to have seen them), of God and of his political position. Nina Hagen has been very involved in all walks of life, from founding a punk underwear line, a drug rehab house in the United States, her own television show on the British channel Sci-Fi and having his radio show. Between her career, touring, her private life, she took the time to have two children. She had to wait until the year 2000 to see success finally return to her. The album Return of Mother , was his c omeback and put it back on the voice of commercial success. To speak of Nina Hagen is to speak of an accomplished and true artist.
A singer with an incredible voice, a disjointed personality and a ( I don’t give a fuck ) attitude. There you go, Nina Hagen in a few words.
Hoping to have piqued your interest.
Nina Hagen is the daughter of screenwriter and actress Hans Oliva-Hagen and Eva-Maria Hagen, respectively, who divorced when she was two years old. Eight years later, Eva Maria becomes friends with the dissident poet and singer Wolf Biermann who will have a great influence on Nina.
As a child, she played in a soap opera, Das Sandmännchen (“The Little Sandman”), featuring a puppet and two little girls1.
Nina left school at the age of 17 and in 1972, after being refused admission to the government actor school, she went to Poland where, for a while, she sang songs in a group. by Janis Joplin and Tina Turner.
The following year, back in East Berlin, she joined the Studio für Unterhaltungsmusik (“Entertainment music workshop”) from which she graduated a year later. Then followed months of touring on the roads of East Germany where she performed with the Alfons Wonneberg Orchestra. Tired of these tours, she started a first group, Automobil, with which she sang the title Du hast den Farbfilm vergessen (de) (“You forgot the color film”) which had become legendary. She then set up, a few months later, another group called Fritzens Dampferband.
But in 1976, Wolf Biermann was stripped of his East German nationality. Having become unwanted, Nina, her mother and her stepfather leave East Berlin and settle in West Berlin2.
In 1977, Nina moved to London and regularly frequented the punk scene. Back in Berlin, she formed a new group with the musicians of the politrock group Lokomotive Kreuzberg and recorded her first album in 1978, Nina Hagen Band. Upon its release, the album unveils a talented, charismatic artist with an extraordinary voice, who finds her audience.
In 1979, Nina released her second album, Unbehagen (“Malaise”), in which she performed African Reggae (sung in German and English) which became a hit. She then separates from her group and decides to pursue a solo career. She married the Dutch rock singer Herman Brood with whom she appeared in the film Cha Cha alongside Lene Lovich.
In 1981, the couple separated and Nina moved to the United States. On May 17, 1981, she gave birth to a daughter named Cosma Shiva Hagen born from her meeting with Ferdinand Karmelk. In 1982, NunSexMonkRock released, his first solo album in English which is a curious mix of punk, funk and opera.
In 1983, she recorded Angstlos (“Without fear”), produced by Giorgio Moroder and featuring the hit “New York / NY” and a famous cover of Zarah Leander. Her public appearances are increasingly an opportunity for her to expose her ideas about God, aliens, animal rights and politics.
In 1984, she participated in the soundtrack of the film The Year of the Jellyfish by Christopher Frank.
In 1985, the album Nina Hagen in Ekstase was followed by an international tour with the participation of Lene Lovich (for example at the Zénith in Paris).
In 1989, Nina toured Germany to promote her new album, Nina Hagen. Settled in Paris with her daughter, she gave birth to her son Otis in 1990. In 1991, she set out again on the roads across Europe for the release of her new opus, Street, and recorded a German version of the musical Hair.
Between 1993 and 1996, she recorded three albums: Revolution Ballroom, probably one of her most successful records, then FreuD Euch (“Rejoice”) and Beehappy. In 1998, she became the host of a weekly program on the British Sci-Fi Channel before returning on tour in Germany (the French guitarist Hervé Rozoum, ex – Trans Europe Express, accompanied her on stage).
In 1999, Om Namah Shivay was released, an album of Indian songs sold only on its website, part of the profits from which was used to carry out social projects in India. Nina has had a very strong spiritual relationship with this country in which she has traveled a lot for several years. At the same time, she recorded the song Fieber (“Fièvre”) with the German industrial-metal group OOMPH !, as well as Witness (“Témoin”) with another industrial rock group, KMFDM. She also took part in a recording of Weill / Brecht’s Quart’s Opera with the Modern Ensemble Berlin, alongside singers Max Raabe and HK Gruber. This version has been acclaimed by classical music critics.
Eva-Maria Hagen and Nina Hagen in 2013
In 2000, she recorded the album Return of the Mother, the release of which was followed by a new tour in Germany.
In 2003, she collaborated with the group Apocalyptica for the cover of the song by Rammstein Seemann (“Marin”).
In 2003, Big Band Explosion is a cover of twelve jazz standards, including Let me entertain you, Fever and Over the Rainbow.
Her album, Nina Hagen & Capital Dance Orchestra, released in February 2006, covers the 1930s period with popular standards of German and international song.
In August 2006, Nina Hagen became a member of the jury for the German reality TV show Popstars.
On August 23, 2009, Nina Hagen, of Jewish origin by her father, was baptized in a Protestant temple in Schüttdorf (Lower Saxony), in northern Germany. She published in March 2010, at Droemer Knaur, a work entitled Bekenntnisse (“Confessions”) – whose title paraphrases the famous work of Saint Augustine – which traces her spiritual journey towards Christianity. This book was published in French in January 2012. [ref. desired]
In 2010 she released the album entitled Personal Jesus.
In 2018, she joined the left-wing movement Aufstehen3.