Godmother of punk turns 67
Singer-songwriter, mother, activist, punk rocker Nina Hagen turns 68 today
Catharina “Nina” Hagen was born in East Berlin on March 11, 1955. Her mother, Eva Maria Hagen was a superstar in East Germany. Hagen began her career as an actress when she appeared in several German films alongside her mother Eva-Maria Hagen. At 19, she joined the band Automobil, which enjoyed just one hit: “Farbfilm” (Color Film). In the song, she sings with a rage of being on holiday with her boyfriend and only having one black and white camera film. After her stepfather Wolf Biermann’s East German citizenship was withdrawn from him in 1976, Hagen followed him to Hamburg. Shortly afterward, she was offered a record deal from CBS Records and formed Nina Hagen Band. Their self-titled debut album was released in 1978 to a critical acclaim and was a commercial success selling over 250,000 copies. Nina’s lyrics were nasty, honest and oblique. She relentlessly sang, shouted, shrieked and purred about death, STDs, and sex in a train station restroom. The band released one more album Unbehagen before their break-up in 1979. That same year Nina Hagen caused a scandal on Austrian television by giving instructions on masturbation on a talk show. The presenter of the show was so overwhelmed he grinned sheepishly and didn’t intervene. After the broadcast, he was fired – while fans of the punk singer applauded her historic TV appearance In 1982, Hagen signed a new contract with CBS and released her debut solo album NunSexMonkRock, which became her first record to chart in the United States. She followed it with two more albums: Fearless (1983) and Nina Hagen in Ekstasy (1985) before her contract with CBS expired and was not renewed. In 1989, she was offered a record deal from Mercury Records. She released three albums on the label: Nina Hagen (1989), Street (1991), and Revolution Ballroom (1993). However, none of the albums achieved notable commercial success. Hagen made her musical comeback with the release of her album Return of the Mother (2000). Nina Hagen has always had a heart for the disadvantaged and has also fought forced psychiatric treatment and gotten involved in hospice work. Her own belief in divine karma has helped her regularly look death in the eye. But her religious views are multi-faceted: In 2009, she was baptized as a Protestant Christian. Besides her musical career, Hagen is also a voice-over actress. She wrote three autobiographies: Ich bin ein Berliner (1988), Nina Hagen: That’s Why the Lady Is a Punk (2003), and Bekenntnisse (2010). She is also noted for her human and animal rights activism.
By Ken Warren, 2017/18
Look back at the 1978 video for “Naturträne” by Nina Hagen
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