The German-born singer-songwriter would inspire hundreds of artists in the 80s 90s and today
Bizarre and eye-catching Klaus Nomi was born on this day in 1944
Klaus Nomi was a famous German singer-songwriter and actor, who was born on January 24, 1944, in Immenstadt, Bavaria, Germany. When Klaus Nomi died on August 06, 1983 he died alone. Although the performance artist had risen to the top of New York’s art set and had been celebrated by the likes of David Bowie, no one came to visit him the final week of his life at Manhattan’s Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. They were all scared. What was going on was the first deaths of the AIDS epidemic. It was so new, that it hadn’t yet been given a name – other than “gay cancer.” It wasn’t that there was misinformation out there. There was no information. Klaus Nomi had become one of the first celebrities to die of the disease and no one even knew what was going on. Nomi was a visionary artist with a stunning sense of humor that filled up the two studio records recorded in his lifetime with campy New Wave-inflected pop songs like “Simple Man” and “Lightnin’ Strikes,” Nomi was a brilliant operatic singer with an amazing vocal range. When approaching opera, he took it completely seriously. He was passionate about it to that extent. Some may be shocked to hear him perform in such a way if they’re only familiar with his sillier work. To those who know though, they recognize him. Morrissey has cited him repeatedly as a favorite, for instance, and included his more serious works on compilations. Nomi was also a visionary designer. His bizarre and eye-catching outfits were perhaps kitschy in their own way, yet they clearly inspired incoming fashionistas of the 1980s. David Bowie was blown away by Nomi’s designs and took many of them for himself, making them much more famous than their creator. And without Nomi’s strange suits, which seemed almost too large for his body, would there have been David Byrne’s “big suits” in Talking Heads? More than anything, though, Nomi did exactly what he wanted with his life and his art, with no aspirations other than creation and inspiration. He had an unparalleled zest for life and his work and believed in the future happening right now, in his own words. Unfortunately, we’ll never know what he would be up to now, but we can look back at the amazing things Nomi did accomplish in his life.
By Ken Warren, 2017/18
Watch Klaus Nomi 1982 video for “Lightnin’ Strikes”
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