Nena – Germany’s queen of rock ‘n’ roll
She is responsible for countless earworms and even more hit singles. She fills her audience’s minds with thoughts and their hearts with joy. German music icon Nena has been following her very own soundtrack for more than 35 years. With the release of her new studio album Oldschool, Discover Germany spoke to Nena about her ongoing tour, her greatest hits and her dreams for the future.
Listening to the opening of Nena’s latest live record, Live at SO36, one can immediately feel that the person behind the microphone never really wanted to grow up. “Hello my dears,” she says on that first track. “How are you? It’s going to be a long and hot night. Are you ready?” Then for the next 88 minutes there is pure, rousing rock ’n’ roll. Born as Gabriele Susanne Kerner in Hagen in 1960, Nena grew up in a musical household. “Already as a baby I always wanted to listen, sing and dance to my parents’ records,” she explains. “At the age of seven I got my own accordion, then I took a detour to the land of the recorder. Eventually my father brought home an old piano, on which I was free to beat away extensively. And in 1971, when I was 12, my first guitar lay under the Christmas tree.” Incidentally it was in the same year, that Nena first heard The Rolling Stones song Angie. Like so many of her generation, the legendary band had a huge influence on her. “The music I grew up with has inspired me to go out into the world.”
When Nena became the lead singer of her first band called The Stripes, she did not know about golden record awards or international acclaim. It was not even important whether or not her efforts would lead to a career. “We were four: a drummer, a bassist, a guitarist and a Nena. It was romantic and also a little bit wild,” she says. Playing with The Stripes was a formative experience for her and until today she has never let go of the feeling of freedom and living that it gave her. The band played straight up rock ’n’ roll with Nena singing in English. After the band broke up, Nena moved to West Berlin in 1981. At the time Berlin was the musical hotspot of Europe that was fast, vibrant and hugely creative, and Nena was right there where it all happened.
When asked about her recipe for a life of success, Nena laughs and explains: “It continues anyway, that’s the stream of life. Everything is in movement and when you stay flexible in body and soul, you can travel with it and experience amazing things.” Since the death of her first child she has stopped questioning everything. “For me nothing is just right or wrong anymore, because after a while one can see in the deepest darkness.”
TEXT: THOMAS SCHROERS I PHOTOS: ALEXANDER HUSEBY, ESTHER HAASE, HEIKO LASCHITZKI
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