Nina Hagen

Nina Hagen

Rarely has popular music celebrated a more eccentric personality than flying-saucer-

obsessed German punk songstress Nina Hagen. Though her flamboyant, shrieking,

operatic performances have influenced post-punk performance artists such as

Diamanda Galas, Hagen has never been a big commercial success outside of Germany.

Hagen was born Katherina Hagen 44 years ago today in East Berlin. Her parents

divorced when she was young, and Hagen was raised by her actress mother and her

stepfather, dissident poet/songwriter Wold Biermann.

In 1964, Hagen joined the Thalmann-Pioneers, a Communist youth organization. She

was also a member of the organization Freie Deutsche Jugend, which kicked her

out for demonstrating against the East German militia's participation in the 1968 Soviet

invasion of Czechoslovakia.

Hagen tried to enter the Berlin-Schönweide drama school, but failed its

entrance exam. She ended up singing blues and soul numbers in a Polish band before

beginning a successful stint in the Studio Für Unterhaltungsmusik (Studio

For Popular Music).

Hagen then toured East Germany, singing with the Alfons Wonneberg Orchestra. Soon

she was fronting the band Automobil (whose shows combined rock concerts and dance-

club music before it was chic); she later joined the Fritzens Dampferband (Fred's

Steamboat Band). When her stepfather was kicked out of Soviet territory, Hagen

followed him to West Germany in 1976. She got a recording contract in that country, but,

mila kunis vai para o baile militar

excited by the originality of England's burgeoning punk-rock scene, she subsequently

moved to London.

In England, Hagen began working with Ari Up of the notorious punk band the Slits. She

then returned to Germany and formed the Nina Hagen Band, which issued an

eponymous LP in 1978. 'African Reggae,' released in 1979, became a club hit and

generated a cult following, particularly in Australia. The following year, the band

released Unbehagen. Hagen's first U.S. album was an EP comprising four songs

from her two German albums, including her takes on Lene Lovich's 'Lucky Number' and

the Tubes' 'White Punks on Dope.'

Hagen relocated to New York City, where she recorded her first English-language

album, Nunsexmonkrock (1982). The LP, featuring Paul Shaffer and Chris

Spedding, appeared on the Billboard 200 albums chart for a short time and was

followed by Fearless, a 1983 album produced by the then-red-hot team of Giorgio

Moroder and Keith Forsey. The LP's songs reflected her belief in a UFO she said she

had seen in Malibu, California. Fearless featured the Red Hot Chili Peppers on

'What It Is,' and also included Hagen's biggest U.S. record, the top-10 dance hit

'New York New York'

(RealAudio excerpt).

Following 1985's Nina Hagen in Ekstasy, which contained covers of Frank

Sinatra's hit 'My Way' and Norman Greenbaum's 'Spirit in the Sky,' Hagen parted ways

with CBS Records. She married a teen-age fan a few years later and marked the

occasion with the Canadian EP Punk Wedding. Cuts on that album included takes

on 'Viva Las Vegas,' 'Ave Maria,' and the Janis Joplin hit 'Move Over.'

In the ensuing years, Hagen released a number of albums on various labels, none of

which increased her popularity any further outside Germany, where she remains a star.

In 1996, Columbia Records released Fourteen Friendly Abductions: The Best of Nina


Other birthdays: Flaco Jimenez (Texas Tornados), 60; Ric Rothwell (Mindbenders), 55;

Mark Stein (Vanilla Fudge), 52; George Kooymans (Golden Earring), 51; Bobby

McFerrin, 49; Mike Percy (Dead or Alive), 38; Bruce Watson (Big Country), 38; and Lisa

Loeb, 31.