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Germany’s Hitparade 1930-37

October 27th, 2014 16 comments

Listening to this mix, previously posted in 2010, the other day, I thought it might be useful to recycle it, especially since with the 75th anniversary of the outbreak of WW2 the era is of heightened interest again. Obviously, if you want this mix, and the second one I’ll repost next week, because you are nostalgic for the Third Reich, you are not welcome to it. As Indiana Jones so memorably put it: “Nazis. I hate these guys.”

This is the first of two compilations of German hits covering the era from the rise of Nazism to its demise. The first compilation leads us through the latter years of the Weimar Republic to 1937, just before war became an inevitable prospect. The second mix will start in 1938 — the year of the Anschluß, or annexation of Austria — through the war to 1944 (there were no hits in 1945, it seems).

None of the pre-war Schlager featured here are of the Nazi propaganda sort, and even the propaganda of the war-period songs is subtle, framing national optimism and encouragement in romantic song (with sentiments such as “I know one day there’ll be a miracle” and “Everything must pass”), which was very much in line with Goebbels’ propaganda strategy which used film and song to distract the Volk’s mind from matters of war.

The careers of some of the artists featured in the first mix ended with the advent of Nazism. Marlene Dietrich (1901-92), whose Ich bin die fesche Lola comes from Der Blaue Engel (filmed simultaneously as The Blue Angel in 1929), launched her Hollywood career before Hitler assumed power on 31 January 1933. While Dietrich agitated against the Nazis from the safety of Hollywood, her sister ran a cinema near the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, frequented mainly by SS guards. Marlene renounced her sister as a result, yet after the war helped her financially. In post-war West Germany, Dietrich was long regarded by many as a traitor on account of her support for the Allies in WW2. At a 1960 concert in Düsseldorf, an audience member threw an egg at her (in fairness, other audience members gave the offender a good beating for his troubles).

Comedian Harmonists

The sextett Comedian Harmonists created many pre-Nazi classics which became German standards (such as Veronika, der Lenz ist da; Wochenend und Sonnenschein; Ein Freund, ein guter Freund; Mein kleiner Kaktus). Half of the group comprised Jewish members, and the group struggled soon after the Nazis took power. In 1934 the group was prohibited from performing in Germany; after a year of foreign tours it split in 1936. The three Jewish members emigrated, and formed a band which toured under the original name; the three Aryans formed a new group called the Meistersextett. Likewise, the Hungarian Jewish singer Gitta Alpár (1903-91) left Germany after 1933, and was divorced by her Aryan actor husband Gustav Fröhlich on top of that.

Richard Tauber (1891-1948), the Austrian tenor who was the subject of Tom Waits’ blues, was the son of a Jew who had converted to Catholicism, and had even hoped Richard would become a priest. Instead, Richard joined the stage, appearing in operas and operettas. Already a big star in Germany, Tauber was badly beaten up by Nazi thugs, presumably because of his Jewish ancestry, and left Germany for Austria. He fled his homeland after its annexation. He subsequently became a British citizen, and died in London at the age of 57.

Then there was the tragic Joseph Schmidt (1904-42), a Jewish tenor who was among the first artists to be banned from German radio by the Nazis. A few months after the release of his film Ein Lied geht um die Welt (the title track features on this set; see the video clip from the film) in May 1933, Schmidt fled Germany for Vienna, then after the Anschluß to Belgium, then after its invasion by Germany to France, and following France’s occupation to neutral Switzerland, where he arrived in September 1942. Several escape attempts had weakened Schmidt, leading to his collapse on a Zürich street. He was identified as a Jewish refugee, a category that in Swiss law was not regarded as political emigrés, and taken to the internment camp Girenbad while his residence application was being processed. While interned he fell ill and was treated in a hospital for an inflammation of the throat. The doctors refused to follow up his complaint about chest pains, and Schmidt was returned to Girenbad. Two days later, on November 16, he died of a heart attack. The following day, his approved residence permit arrived.

Just as dramatic is the story of Renate Müller (1906-37). Müller was a movie star (appearing in 1933’s Viktor und Viktoria, a movie banned by the Nazis and remade in English in 1980 as Victor/Victoria, from which the featured song comes. See video clip). After the departure of Marlene Dietrich, Adolf Hitler himself asked the beautiful, thoroughly Aryan Müller to make Nazi propaganda movies. She refused to do so, and also resisted pressure to split from her Jewish lover. Her sudden death at 31 in 1937 was attributed to epilepsy, but in reality she died after falling from a window. It might have been suicide, but Gestapo officers were seen entering the building shortly before. She might have jumped in a panic at the approach of the feared secret police, or she might have been pushed the agents. There are rumours that Müller had some incriminating information on Hitler.

The Polish-born actress Pola Negri (1897-1987), the famous femme fatale of Hollywood’s silent movies era and former lover of Rudolfo Valentino and Charlie Chaplin, had returned to Europe after her career floundered with the advent of the talkies and after losing a fortune in the Wall Street Crash. She acted in a few Goebbels-commissioned films, then fled Germany in 1938 as rumours of her part-Jewish ancestry appeared. Other rumours concerned an alleged affair with Hitler, who counted the Negri movie Mazurka among his favourites. Negri won a libel suit against a French magazine that had made the claim.

Like the unfortunate Joseph Schmidt, many artists left Germany as the horror of life under the Nazis began to reveal itself. The movie folks and writers among them, Jewish and gentile, tended to move to the US. These included the comic actor Siegfried Arno (1895-1975), who in his day was known as “the German Chaplin”. But the USA had no great demand for singers. So many of them continued their careers in Germany. Some of them surely had Nazi sympathies, or at least exhibited exceedingly high levels of pragmatism and wilful ignorance. Some, like Dutch-born singing hoofer Johannes Heesters, Swedish diva Zarah Leander or Führer-favourite Lale Andersen, would claim that they had no idea about politics, as though one needed the insights of a Chomsky to realise that very bad things indeed were happening under the swastika, even while cocooned in the protective shell of celebrity.

But it would be an error to believe that all artists were supportive of the Nazis. Hans Albers (1891-1960), one of the biggest stars in Nazi Germany, despised the Nazis. The regime forced him to officially split from his half-Jewish girlfriend, Hansi Burg, but he continued to live with her. In 1939, he arranged for her escape to Switzerland. When she returned to post-war Germany, Albers dropped his girlfriend at the time to reunite with Burg, with whom he lived until his death in 1960. His Flieger, grüss mir die Sonne is sometimes considered a Nazi propaganda anthem. It was nothing of the sort, at least not in intent. Released the year before the Nazis took power, Albers sung it in the sci-fi film F.P. 1 Antwortet Nicht.

Paul Hörbiger (1894-1981), an Hungarian-Austrian actor, became a resistance fighter against the Nazis. Arrested by the Nazis in 1945, he was sentenced to death for treason, with the BBC even reporting his death. Hörbiger lived, and enjoyed a long career on film, TV and stage which ended just a year before his death in 1981 at 86. Long revered in Germany and Austria as a grand old gentleman of stage and screen, Hörbiger’s film credits include the classic The Third Man, in which he played Harry Lime’s nameless porter.

Hans Söhnker (1903-1981) was discovered just as the Nazis took power. With some fellow actors of much courage he helped hide Jews on the run from the Nazis. Reportedly Söhnker was blacklisted by the Gestapo on several occasions because of these activities, with his celebrity presumably protecting him from the serious consequences non-famous Germans risked doing the same noble thing. He went on to have a long, fruitful career in Germany, where there was much affection for him.

Lilian Harvey (1906-1968) was born in London to English and German parents. During WW1, her father worked in Magdeburg, preventing the family from returning to England. Lilian might have become a big British star; instead her career hit the big time in Germany. After a failed attempt at breaking through in Hollywood, she drew the attention of the Gestapo in the ’30s for her refusal to disassociate from her Jewish friends. Based in France after war, she resumed her career in West Germany.

Others were apolitical. Heinz Rühmann (1902-94) was one of Germany’s biggest stars for close to six decades (he appeared in the excellent 1930 comedy Die drei von der Tankstelle, and in a 1941propaganda comedy with the entirely unfortunate title Der Gasmann, which, unusually for comedies, liberally used the “Heil Hitler” salute). Rühmann, reportedly Anne Frank’s favourite actor, presented himself in public as entirely apolitical, but after the war he was accused of having divorced his Jewish wife in 1938 so as to protect his career in the Third Reich. However, his next wife, Hertha Feiler, (with whom he remained until her death in 1975) had a Jewish grandfather, which caused Rühmann some trouble with the Nazi hierarchy. A Rühmann & Feiler duet appears on the second mix.

Willi Forst (1903-80), an Austrian actor, director and singer, was highly regarded by the Nazis, and made movies commissioned by them (including that Hitler favourite starring Pola Negri). After the war he defended himself from accusations of having been a sell-out, referring to his country’s “occupation” (for which his compatriots had voted, of course) and pointing to subtle subversion in his films. The fine actor Curd Jürgens later recalled Forst’s advice during the Nazi era to never make any political statement in case it might come back later to bite him.

Actor Willy Fritsch (1901-73) was a member of the NSDAP, though he made no political statements in his films other than the 1944 propaganda flick Junge Adler (which featured post-war movie star Hardy Krüger and 1970s TV host Dietmar Schönherr). Fritsch’s Nazi party membership was not held against him after the war, when he was one of Germany’s most popular actors. Singing with him on Ich wollt’ ich wär’ ein Huhn, recycled from the film Glückskinder, is Lilian Harvey (video clip). Their lyric is different from the more comedic version of Die Goldene Sieben (more about whom in part 2), who draw some verses from the movie version of the song, including the notion that Mickey Mouse lives in a mousehole. In the hit version Fritsch is more interested in being a chicken so that he need not have to go to the office. And it is that everyday-man persona with which he cemented his acting career.

In some of these post-war roles he played the father to young Romy Schneider’s characters. The ill-fated Romy was the daughter of the committed Austrian Nazi actor Wolf Albach-Retty and Magda Schneider (1909-96), of whom it is said that she had been close to Adolf Hitler. Like Heesters and Fritsch, her post-war career was not inhibited by the taint of Nazi associations. Another performer with a dodgy Third Reich record could never be taken to task: the Viennese crooner Luigi Bernauer (1899-1945) died in Oslo while on a tour entertaining German troops in occupied territories.

TRACKLISTING
1. Marlene Dietrich – Ich Bin Die Fesche Lola (1930)
2. Comedian Harmonists – Ein Freund, Ein Guter Freund (1930)
3. Siegfried Arno – Wenn Die Elisabeth Nicht So Schöne Beine Hätt (1930)
4. Richard Tauber – Adieu, Mein Kleiner Gardeoffizier (1930)
5. Paul Hörbiger – Das Muß Ein Stück Vom Himmel Sein (1931)
6. Lilian Harvey – Das Gibt’s Nur Einmal (1931)
7. Gitta Alpar – Was Kann So Schön Sein Wie Deine Liebe (1932)
8. Hans Albers – Flieger, Grüß’ Mir Die Sonne (1932)
9. Die Weintraubs – Wenn Wieder Frühling Ist (1933)
10. Joseph Schmidt – Ein Lied Geht Um Die Welt (1933)
11. Renate Müller – An einem Tag im Frühling (1934)
12. Comedian Harmonists – Gitarren spielt auf (1934)
13. Herbert Ernst Groh – Ein Walzer für dich (1934)
14. Hilde Hildebrandt – Liebe ist ein Geheimnis (1934)
15. Eric Helgar – Wir wollen Freunde sein für’s ganze Leben (1934)
16. Erwin Hartung – Kannst du pfeifen, Johanna (1934)
17. Luigi Bernauer – Nachts Ging Das Telefon (1935)
18. Jan Kiepura – Ob Blond, Ob Braun, Ich Liebe Alle Frau’n (1935)
19. Pola Negri – Wenn Die Sonne Hinter Den Dächern versinkt (1936)
20. Hans Albers – Auf der Reeperbahn nachts um halb eins (1936)
21. Willy Fritsch & Lilian Harvey – Ich wollt’ ich wär ein Huhn (1936)
22. Die Goldene Sieben – Ich wollt’ ich wär ein Huh (1936)
23. Die Metropol Vokalisten – Buh-Buh (1937)
24. Hans Söhnker & Magda Schneider – Wem gehört Ihr Herz am nächsten Sonntag, Fräulein? (1937)
25. Heinz Rühmann & Hans Albers – Jawohl, Meine Herren (1937)
26. Johannes Heesters – Ich werde jede Nacht von Ihnen träumen (1937)
27. Willy Forst – Kapriolen (1937)

RUNTERLADEN

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In Memoriam – December 2011

January 5th, 2012 14 comments

December’s headline death probably is that of the great Cesária Évora, who emerged from the tiny West African island of Cape Verde, a former Portuguese colony.

But as a soul fan, percussion maestro Ralph MacDonald is my headline departure of the month. He wrote some stone-cold classics and appeared on an impressive catalogue of soul and fusion albums, including those released in their heyday by Bill Withers, George Benson, Donny Hathaway, Ashford & Simpson, Brothers Johnson, Margie Joseph, Patti Austin, Grover Washington, Maynard Ferguson, The Crusaders, Michael Franks,  Eric Gale, Bob James,  Herbie Mann, Earl Klugh, and Sadao Watanabe, as well as on pop albums by the likes of Billy Joel (The Stranger, 52nd Street, Innocent Man) and Paul Simon (Still Crazy…, One Trick Pony, Graceland).

The Ragovoy curse struck again. First the great songwriter died in July; then his occasional collaborator Jimmy Norman, with whom he wrote Time Is On My Side, died in November; in December singer Howard Tate, for whom Ragovoy wrote and produced several songs (including Get It While You Can, which Janis Joplin later covered, and 8 Days On The Road) passed away at 72.

Three of the world’s longest-performing artists died in December: Myra Taylor first took to the stage as a 14-year-old in 1931; she made her final performance in a career spanning 70 years on 24 July this year. Fans of The Originals will appreciate the first recording of the great Ink Spots hit I Don’t Want To Set The World On Fire, which featured Myra Taylor on vocals (originals fans will also enjoy Ruby and the Romantics’ Our Day Will Come, covered by Amy Winehouse on her new posthumous album) .

Johannes Heesters, who died at 108, had been a huge star in Nazi Germany and counted Nazi leaders among his friends – a stigma that followed him to his death. Hated in his native Holland, he was still hugely popular in West Germany.  He still toured as a centenarian, and performed to the age of 105.

Bill Tapia, dead at 103, was a ukulele maestro. Check out his version of Stars and Stripes Forever, from just two years ago, which he introduces as having played during World War I – the audience laughs, but the guy isn’t joking. He has been performing since 1918.

Among the more bizarre deaths is that of Willie Nelson’s drummer Dan Spears, who fell outside his house and, unable to move, froze to death.

Sadly, this will be the final monthly In Memoriam. Compiling each instalment simply takes up much more time than I can afford to spend, so this is a decision I had to make – with much regret, because I don’t think anyone is doing it quite this way on the Internet.

 Michal ‘Michal the Girl’ Friedman, singer, from complication during the birth of twins on November 25
ATB – The Autumn Leaves (2004)

Howard Tate, 72, soul singer, on December 2
Howard Tate – 8 Days On The Road (1971)

Bill Tapia, 103, legendary ukulele player, on December 2
Bill Tapia – Stars And Stripes

Ronald Mosley, 72, baritone and guitarist with Ruby & the Romantics, on December 3
Ruby and the Romantics – Our Day Will Come (1963)

Hubert Sumlin, 80, legendary blues guitarist (with Howlin’ Wolf), on December 4
Howlin’ Wolf – The Red Rooster (1962, as guitarist)
Hubert Sumlin – Down In The Bottom (1987)
R.J. Rosales, 37, Filipino-born Australian singer and actor, on December 4

Violetta Villas, 73, Belgian-born Polish diva, on December 5
Violetta Villas – Przyjdzie Na To Czas (1964)

Dobie Gray, 71, soul singer (Drift Away, The In-Crowd), on December 6
Dobie Gray – River Deep, Mountain High (1973)

Bob Burnett, 71, member of ’60s folk group The Highwaymen, on December 7
The Highwaymen – Universal Soldier (1964)

Dan ‘Bee’ Spears, 62, long-time bassist for Willie Nelson, on December 8
Willie Nelson – Remember Me (1975, as bassist)
Dick Sims, 60, keyboard player for Eric Clapton, Bob Seger a.o., on December 8
Eric Clapton – Wonderful Tonight (1977, as keyboardist)

Alan Styles, Pink Floyd roadie and subject of Alan’s Psychedelic Breakfast, on December 8
Pink Floyd – Alan’s Psychedelic Breakfast (1970)

Myra Taylor, 94, jazz singer and actress, on December 9
Harlan Leonard and his Rockets – I Don’t Want To Set The World On Fire (1940, as vocalist)

Dustin Hengst, drummer of pop-punk band Damone, on December 9

Karryl ‘Special One’ Smith, member of hip hop duo The Conscious Daughters, on December 10
The Conscious Daughters – Somthin’ To Ride To (Fonky Expidition) (1993)
Billie Jo Spears, 74, country singer, on December 14
Billie Jo Spears – Blanket On The Ground (1975)

Bob Brookmeyer, 81, jazz trombonist, on December 16
Lalo Schifrin & Bob Brookmeyer – Samba Para Dos (1963)

Slim Dunkin, 24, rapper with 1017 Brick Squad, shot dead on December 16

Cesária Évora, 70, Cape Verdean singer, on December 17
Cesária Évora – Nho Antone Escade (1999)
Cesária Évora – Cabo Verde Terra Estimada (1988)

Sean Bonniwell, 71, American guitarist and singer of ’60s rock band Music Machine, on December 17
Ralph MacDonald, 67, percussionist, songwriter and producer, on December 18
Roberta Flack & Donny Hathaway – Where Is The Love (1972, as songwriter)
Grover Washington Jr with Bill Withers – Just The Two Of Us (1980, as songwriter)
Billy Joel – Rosalinda’s Eyes (1978, as percussionist)

Johnny Silvo, 75, folk singer and children’s TV presenter, on December 18

Clem DeRosa, 86, jazz drummer, arranger, bandleader and music educator, on December 20

David Gold, 31, singer and guitarist of Canadian death-metal band Woods of Ypres, on December 22
Johannes Heesters, 108, Dutch-born actor and singer, on December 24
Johannes Heesters – Ich werde jede Nacht von Ihnen träumen (1937)

Jody Rainwater, 92, bluegrass musician (with the Foggy Mountain Boys) and radio DJ, on December 24

Jim ‘Motorhead’ Sherwood, 69, saxophone player for Frank Zappa’s Mothers of Invention, on December 25
Frank Zappa – Conehead

Sam Rivers, 88, jazz musician and composer, on December 26
Sam Rivers – Verve (1980)

Barbara Lea, 82, jazz singer and actress, on December 26
Betty McQuade, 70, Australian singer, on December 26
Betty McQuade – Blue Train

Dan Terry, 87, American jazz trumpeter and big band leader, on December 27

Kaye Stevens, 79, singer and actress (frequent guest of the Rat Pack), on December 28

Christine Rosholt, 46, jazz singer, on December 28

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Curious Germany vol. 2

September 22nd, 2009 5 comments

The first instalment of German music and novelties was rather popular. So here’s another one, with a third instalment waiting.

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Marianne Rosenberg – Ich bin wie Du (1975).mp3
Rosenberg - Ich bin wie DuMuch of Eurodisco was made in West Germany, with Giorgio Moroder producing Donna Summer in Munich, and acts like the Silver Convention strutting their shiny trousers there, too. It is fair to say, however, that the German Schlager scene was not a hotbed of disco (or, indeed, anything else but banality). The exception was Marianne Rosenberg, whose sensible secretary’s hairstyle complemented her girl-next-door image. She retained the coiffure and high collar dress during her foray into disco in 1975, the splendid Ich bin wie Du (“I am like you”). The fusion of straight-lacedness and disco queenhood established Marianne as an icon in Germany’s gay scene, a position she continues to occupy today.

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Marianne Rosenberg – Mr Paul McCartney (1970).mp3
Die Beat Oma – Ich Bin die Beat Oma (1965).mp3

Rosenberg - Mr Paul McCartneyBefore she became a gay icon, a gawkier teenage Marianne Rosenberg appealed to Paul McCartney to reply to her fan letter, because no other girl likes him as much as she does. She resorts to emotional blackmail: John and Ringo and even the odd Rolling Stone would have sent her an autograph by now. But not Paul, oh no. So she has to resort to singing this song to attract his attention. There are, of course, other ways to get Paul’s attention (if not a thumbs up sign). Seven years later, in 1977, German newspapers were agog with the claims of a teenager that Mr Paul McCartney had fathered her during one of the Beatles’ stints in Hamburg. To the shock of nobody, the claims were found to be — gasp — untrue.

Five years before Marianne’s plea to Macca, there was Germany’s insane answer to the wonderful Mrs Miller. Beat Oma (The Beat Granny) based her autobiographical anthem on A Hard Day’s Night, very loosely so, intoning her credentials while aggressively hurtling across vocal keys, hitting none in the process. When she claims that she sings “everybody else against the wall”, the listener virtually feels blindfolded and condemned, hoping only that his superannuated executioner will experience a mishap of the kind depicted in Don Martin’s cartoons in Mad magazine. As the song closes, the drummer puts an end to Beat Oma’s atonal wailings with an assault on the drum kit, perhaps metaphorically beating some sense into the thoroughly charmless Oma (of course, Any Major Dude With Half A Heart disapproves of actual violence against grannies).

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Agnetha – Geh’ mit Gott (1972).mp3
Agnetha – Señor Gonzales (1968).mp3
Agnetha – Mein schönster Tag (1968)

Agnetha - Geh mit GottLast time we encountered ABBA recording in German. Before she became one of the As in the groups’ acronymised name, Agnetha Fältskog tried to realise the ambition of many Scandinavian singers of the day with a dream of musical success: breaking into the German Schlager scene. Agnetha released a batch of German singles between 1968 and 1972, most of them quite awful even by the low standards of the genre, though a couple were actually quite good. In her endeavours, Agnetha — who already had a career in Sweden but put it on hold while going for stardom in West Germany — was produced by her boyfriend, Dieter Zimmermann. Once Dieter was history, her next boyfriend, Björn, worked out better on the way to stardom.

Geh’ mit Gott was released towards the end of her futile bid at Schlager stardom. It was the German version of Ennio Morricone’s song Here’s To You (sung by Joan Baez) for the 1971 film Sacco e Vanzetti (about two Italian immigrants executed in the US for a crime they possibly didn’t commit).

Agnetha - Senor GonzalesFour years earlier, Señor Gonzales was Agnetha’s second German single. I see no reason why it shouldn’t have been a Schlager hit. It has the necessary clichéd lyrics and banal melody; it even has the faux-Mexican sound the Schlager-buying public was so fond of (though here Agnetha might have been ahead of her time; the Mexican Schlager wave peaked in 1972 with Rex Gildo’s superb Fiesta Mexicana, which I shall feature soon). The b-side to Señor Gonzales is a rather better affair. Mein schönster Tag is a country ballad which our girl sings rather well; it is a cover version of a country song, but I can’t work out what the original is. Somebody will surely tell me.

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Johnny Cash – Wer Kennt den Weg (1966).mp3
cashIn the 1960s it became common for English-speaking artists to make foreign-language recordings of their hit songs. Foremost among the European countries to offer a market for such things was West Germany. In 1966, Johnny Cash recorded I Walk The Line as Wer Kennt den Weg (alas not as Johannes Bargeld). In the early 1950s, Cash had been based as an US soldier in southern Germany. Clearly he did little in that time to benefit from the opportunity to learn German; his accent is quite appalling.

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Sandie Shaw – Einmal glücklich sein wie die Andern (1965).mp3
sandie_shawLike her compatriots Petula Clark and, to a lesser extent, Dusty Springfield, Sandie Shaw recorded a lot of her repertoire in German (and in French), including her epic version of Bacharach/David’s Always Something There To Remind Me. Here the title translates as “Just once to be happy like the others”. Recorded in 1965, Sandie sounds like she actually knows what she is singing. She clearly makes an effort (though towards the end the effort apparently becomes a bit too much for her), and her diction is charmingly foreign. That’s all the German public ever asked for; as noted previously, nothing could win the hearts of Germans as much as somebody butchering their languages gently.

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The Supremes – Where Did Our Love Go (German version) (1964).mp3
The Temptations – Mein Girl (1964).mp3

supremesBerry Gordy could spot a marketing opportunity, and so he had the stars of his Motown roster record their big hits in various European languages, apparently singing from phonetic lyric sheets. Diana Ross makes a game attempt at it; one can understand her implorations not to be left by the addressee of the song. The Temptations take rather more relaxed view of linguistic doctrines, anticipating the German tendency to include English words as part of the conversational language. Germans are quite happy to use the word “girl” instead of Mädchen, or indeed “happy” instead of glücklich, as the Temptations do here (dear Diana is more purist about this: she actually uses the word glücklich, which must be a bit of a tongue breaker for non-German speakers).
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Millie – My Boy Lollipop (German) (1964).mp3
millieAnd another German version of an English-language hit. Millie (who sounds even more chipmunkish in German) doesn’t make an effort to translate the chief rhyme — sweet as candy/sugar dandy — into German. And how could she? “Du bist so süss wie Süssigkeiten / Du bist mein Zuckerbursche” somehow wouldn’t work well as a line of seduction. So we can forgive that. But why didn’t the songwriters bother to change the line “I love you I love you I love you so” to “Ich lieb’ dich ich lieb’ dich ich lieb’ dich so” ? That’s just lazy.

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Franz Beckenbauer – Gute Freunde kann niemand trennen (1966).mp3
Gerd Müller – Dann macht es bumm (1969).mp3

Fans of English football (or soccer, as my American friends would say) are likely to cringe at the memory of their players’ attempts at pop stardom: Kevin Keegan’s 1979 hit single Head Over Heels, or Glenn Hoddle & Chris Waddle with their 1987 #12 hit Diamond Lights, or Paul Gascoigne teaming up with Lindisfarne to belt out The Fog On The Tyne (there’s a Newcastle United thread here). Bad though these might be, English football fans would have no cause to cringe if they knew what their German counterparts have been subjected to, horrors that would make Hoddle & Waddle seem like the Righteous Brothers.

beckenbauerAnd yet, the two Bayern München legends featured here can be forgiven for their amateur warblings (if not for their club affiliation). Beckenbauer is, in my view, the greatest defensive player of all time. Adept at playing in virtually any position, he was an elegantly authoritative figure on the pitch. Germans, always acutely sensitive to their troubled history, called him “Der Kaiser”, which is preferable to “Der Führer”.

After finishing his playing career (which included a stint with New York Cosmos), Beckenbauer led the West German national team as coach to a World Cup final in 1986 and the world championship in 1990. After abdicating, as it were, he became a functionary for Bayern München, doing all he could to diminish the affection in which German football fans hold their heroes. Today he is a dear friend of FIFA president Sepp Blatter, a thoroughly nasty piece of work behind his grinning mask of buffoonery.

gerd_mullerIf Beckenbauer’s nickname was somewhat misguided, that of his teammate Gerd Müller’s is quite mind-boggling, coming just a quarter of a century after World War 2: “Der Bomber”. The moniker was supposed to testify to Müller’s genuinely breathtaking ability to score goals — he’s by far the best I’ve seen in my lifetime. But it was a misnomer. The nickname suggests that Müller had a mighty shot, firing V2 rockets with accuracy from outside the penalty area. In reality, Müller had no particularly powerful shot. He was, however, compact with a low centre of gravity and an almost unerring positioning instinct. Many of his goals were scored with his backside, or while he was on the ground. His single, Dann macht es bumm (“And then it bangs”), perpetuates the mistaken notion of the blitzkrieging bomber. It also perpetuates the reality that Gerd Müller wasn’t particularly bright. Still, the man is a legend and probably not a friend of the evil Blatter.

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Johannes Heesters – Ich werde jede Nacht von Ihnen träumen (1937).mp3
heestersVera Lynn has just become the oldest person to have a British #1 album (alas not with her collection of Rammstein covers), but the world’s oldest still active performer is Johannes Heesters. The Dutch-born singer and former actor, whose career was directed almost exclusively at German audiences, is still at it at 105 years of age. As one might expect, he is much loved in Germany.

But he is not very popular in the country of his birth, where he has not been forgiven for continuing his career in Nazi Germany (where all entertainment was subject to Joseph Goebbels’ censorship and even dictate), and especially for performing for SS troops at Dachau. After the war Heesters pleaded that he had no idea about Dachau’s the extent of function. I suspect that he might not be entirely loose with the truth here (not all entertainers are very bright); and even if he knew, how much courage might he have needed to muster to tell the SS to bugger off. At the same time, he did move to Germany in 1935, so fuck him for that.

Still, almost 106 years of age, and still performing. And he has a wife who is 45 years younger than he is — Respect!
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Noel Coward – Don’t Let’s Be Beastly To The Germans (1943).mp3
Noel_CowardNot a German song, obviously, but a stinging propaganda satire by the legendary English wit at the expense of Germans. Of course he had no intention of pleading for post-war clemency towards Germans; quite the contrary. And yet, to some extent his satirical entreaty would be realised. To be sure, some Germans were treated badly after the war, especially the many women who were raped by occupying soldiers (and not just by the Russians, who clearly did not share the song’s sentiments). But, truth be told, Germans subjected to occupation in the West cannot have too many complaints about the treatment they received.

German hits 1930-42

August 1st, 2007 17 comments

THIS POST HAS BEEN UPDATED WITH NEW MIXES:
www.halfhearteddude.com/2010/05/deutsche_hits_1930-37/
www.halfhearteddude.com/2010/05/germany%e2%80%99s-hitparade-1938-45/

Here is a collection of German hits from 1930-452. It is fascinating stuff, and not only to the German nostalgists. Look at the stars appearing in this collection:

There is the 1936 hit version of “Lili Marleen” by Adolf Hitler’s favourite singer, Lale Andersen (1905-72). “Lili Marleen”, originally composed in 1915 and a hit for Andersen under the title “Lied eines jungen Wachtposten (Lili Marlen)”, was a popular song in World War II across the fronts. At one point, however, the German leadership banned it because it was too morbid. Andersen was used by the Nazi leadership to record English-language “propaganda-jazz”, which would proscribe her post-war activities as an artist for a while. Once her career resumed, she remained a star until shortly before her death.

There is the original version of Marlene Dietrich‘s (1901-92) “Ich bin von Kopf bis Fuss auf Liebe eingestellt” from Der Blaue Engel (filmed simultaneously as The Blue Angel, 1929), which launched her career internationally. Dietrich’s sister ran a cinema near the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, frequented mainly by SS guards. Marlene renounced her sister as a result, yet after the war helped her financially. In post-war West Germany, Dietrich was long regarded by many as a traitor on account of her support for the Allies in WW2. At a 1960 concert in Düsseldorf, an audience member threw an egg at her (in fairness, other audience members gave the offender a beating for his troubles). Dietrich’s last movie appearance was in 1979, in Just A Gigolo, with David Bowie. Maximilian Schell’s 1984 documentary Marlene is worth seeing, if not for the subject matter, then for Schell’s ingenuity in illustrating the recorded interviews with Dietrich after she withdrew permission to be filmed.

There is Pola Negri (1997-1987), the famous femme fatale of the silent movies era and former lover of Rudolfo Valentino and Charlie Chaplin. The Polish-born actress had returned to Europe after her career floundered with the advent of the talkies and after losing a fortune in the Wall Street Crash, acted in a few Joseph Goebbels-commissioned films, then fled Germany as rumours of her part-Jewish ancestry appeared.

There is the magnificent diva Zarah Leander (1907-81), who, with her extravagant gestures and deep voice, was an obvious favourite drag queen character in the West Germany of the ’70s and ’80s. Born in Sweden, Leander’s life would make a great biopic. After breaking through in pre-Anschluss Vienna, she became an instant star in Germany when she moved there in 1936 (becoming a particular favourite of Hitler’s). Leander always claimed to have been apolitical; not everybody was convinced of it.

There is Hans Albers (1891-1960), one of the biggest stars in Nazi Germany but who despised the Nazis. The Nazis forced him to officially split from his half-Jewish girlfriend, Hansi Burg, but he continued to unofficially live with her. In 1939, he arranged for her escape to Switzerland. When she returned to post-war Germany, Albers dropped his girlfriend at the time to reunite with Burg, with whom he lived until his death in 1960. A veteran actor of the silent era, Albers is rightly considered a legend. His hit “Auf Der Reeperbahn Nachts Um Halb Eins” continues to be sung by drunk Germans anywhere.

There is the tragic Joseph Schmidt (1904-42), a Jewish tenor, who was among the first artists to be banned from German radio by the Nazis. A few months after the release of his film Ein Lied geht um die Welt (the title track is featured on this set) in May 1933, Schmidt fled Germany for Vienna, then after the 1938 Anschluß to Belgium, then after its invasion by Germany to France, and following France’s occupation to neutral Switzerland, where he arrived in September 1942. Several escape attempts had weakened Schmidt, leading to his collapse on a Zürich street. He was identified as a Jewish refugee, who in Swiss law were not regarded as political emigrés, and taken to the internment camp Girenbad while his residence application was being processed. There he fell ill, and was treated in a hospital for an inflammation of the throat. Doctors refused to follow up his complaint about chest pains, and Schmidt was returned to Girenbad. Two days later, on November 16, he died of a heart attack. The following day, his approved residence permit arrived.

There is the sextett Comedian Harmonists, which had three Jewish members and sank soon after the Nazis took power. In 1934 the group was prohibited from performing in Germany; after a year of foreign tours the group split in 1936. The three Jewish members emigrated, and formed a band which toured under the same name; the three Aryans formed a sextet called the Meistersextett.

There is actor Heinz Rühmann (1902-94), who remained one of Germany’s biggest stars for close to six decades (and who appeared in the excellent 1930 comedy Die drei von der Tankstelle). Rühmann, reportedly Anne Frank’s favourite actor, was publicly entirely apolitical, but was accused after the war of having divorced his Jewish wife in 1938 so as to protect his career in the Third Reich. However, his next wife (with whom he remained until her death in 1975) had a Jewish grandfather, which caused Rühmann some trouble with the Nazi hierarchy.

There is Paul Hörbiger (1894-1981), an Hungarian-Austrian actor who became a resistance fighter against the Nazis. Arrested by the Nazis in 1945, he was sentenced to death for treason, with the BBC even reporting his death. Hörbiger lived, and enjoyed a long career on film, TV and stage which ended just a year before his death in 1981 at 86. Long revered in Germany and Austria as a grand old gentleman of stage and screen, Hörbiger’s film credits include the classic The Third Man, in which he played Harry Lime’s nameless porter.

There is Johannes Heesters (1903 – ), duetting with Marika Rökk (1913-2004, who was a admirer of Hitler in her day), who is despised in his native Netherlands as a Nazi collaborator. Heesters, who performed for Hitler and in 1941 visited the Dachau concentration camp (apparently to entertain SS guards, which Heesters denies), did not distance himself from the Third Reich hierarchy (as Albers did). Yet, the allies allowed him to continue his career after the war, and — like many of his colleagues tainted by association with the Third Reich — enjoyed great popularity in post-war Germany. Heesters is the world’s oldest active entertainer. His career started in 1921, he last appeared in a TV film in 2003.


There is Lilian Harvey (1906-1968), born in London to English and German parents. During WW1, her father worked in Magdeburg, preventing the family from returning to England. Lilian might have become a big British star; instead her career hit the big time in Germany. After a failed attempt at breaking through in Hollywood, she drew the attention of the Gestapo in the ’30s for her refusal to disassociate from her Jewish friends. Based in France after war, she resumed her career in West Germany.

There are Die Goldene Sieben, who were founded in Berlin by the Nazi party to record “German jazz that would conform to the moral requirements of the Third Reich, as opposed to the “decadent” US jazz. However, the rotating members of the band failed to invent German jazz, doing so much of US-style swinging that Goebbels’ ministry disbanded the group after five years in 1939. Likewise, Peter Igelhoff (1904-78) was considered too jazzy, and was prohibited from public performances and banned from radio in 1942. Instead, the entertainer was drafted into the army and sent to the front. He survived.

And there is Richard Tauber (1891-1948), the Austrian tenor who was the subject of Tom Waits’ blues. Tauber’s Jewish father converted to Catholicism, and even hoped Richard would become a priest. Instead, Richard joined the stage, appearing in operas and operettas. Already a big star in Germany, Täuber was badly beaten up by Nazi thugs, presumably because of his Jewish ancestry, and left Germany for Austria. He fled his homeland when Germany annexed it in 1938. He subsequently became a British citizen, and died in London at the age of 57.


Tracklisting:
Comedian Harmonist – Ein Freund, Ein Guter Freund
Comedian Harmonist – Veronika, der Lenz ist da
Marlene Dietrich – Ich bin von Kopf bis Fuß auf Liebe eingestellt
Richard Tauber – Adieu, Mein Kleiner Gardeoffizier
Siegfried Arno – Wenn Die Elisabeth Nicht So Schöne Beine Hätt
Lilian Harvey – Das Gibt’s Nur Einmal
Paul Hörbiger – Das Muß Ein Stück Vom Himmel Sein
Hans Albers – Flieger, Grüß’ Mir Die Sonne
Lilian Harvey – Wir Zahlen Keine Miete Mehr
Comedian Harmonists – Kleiner Mann Was Nun
Joseph Schmidt – Ein Lied Geht Um Die Welt
Die Goldene Sieben – Ich Wollt’ Ich Wär Ein Huhn

Hans Albers – Auf der Reeperbahn nachts um halb zwei
Pola Negri – Wenn Die Sonne Hinter Den Dächern Versinkt
Heinz Wehner & His Orchestra – Das Fräulein Gerda
Peter Igelhoff – Der Onkel Doktor Hat Gesagt
Rudi Schuricke – O Mia Bella Napoli
Zarah Leander – Kann Denn Liebe Sünde Sein
Hans Albers – Goodbye, Johnny
Heinz Rühmann – Das Kann Doch Einen Seemann Nicht Erschüttern
Lale Andersen – Lili Marleen
Marika Rökk & Johannes Heester – Musik, Musik, Musik
Ilse Werner – So Wird’s Nie Wieder Sein
Sven Olof Sandberg – Unter Der Roten Laterne Von St Pauli
Zarah Leander – Ich Weiß, Es Wird Einmal Ein Wunder Geschehn