Dave appearson Revolution Ballroom, one of Nina's albums
Nina Hagen was born in the Eastern sector of Berlin on March 11, 1955, to actress Eva Marie Hagen and writer Hans Hagen. Her parents divorced when she was two; eight years later her mother remarried. Nina's new step-father was the dissident poet-songwriter Wolf Biermann. Throughout her childhood Nina joined various East German youth organizations, although the presence of protester Biermann in her life proved to be a bit of a problem.
When she was 17, she failed her examination of the government-controlled East German Actors School in Berlin-Schonweide. Instead, she went to Poland for several months where she sang with a band for the first time. The following year, upon returning to East Germany, she enrolled at the Studio fur Unterhaltungsmusik (Studio for Popular Music) and graduated a year later with outstanding honours. As part of her training she toured East Germany for two months.
She spent several more years touring East Germany with the Alfons Wonneberg Orchestra, but, eventually tiring of this, she started her own band, Automobil. From then on she did full-scale concerts, often performing for eight hours straight, and working so hard that she was ordered by her doctor to take a break. She did, but then re-emerged a few months later with another group, Fritzens Dampferband. Tiring of this as well, Nina took the opportunity to leave to country when her step-father was expelled from East Germany in 1976 (in fact, she was practically begged to leave by the authorities at this point). She arrived in the Federal Republic of Germany (that is, West Germany) and soon secured a recording contract.
A year or so later, Nina flew to London to see what the music scene was over in the UK. She didn't waste any time meeting the Slits and writing a few songs with that group's vocalist, Ari Up. Back in West Berlin in mid-1977, she met up with the members of her future group, the Nina Hagen Band: guitarist Bernard Potschka, bassist Manfred Praeka, drummer Herwig Mitteregger and keyboardist Reinhold Heil.
Nina recorded her initial albums in German. The first one, called simply The Nina Hagen Band (1978), was more reminicient of the American new wave sound than of English punk. Her frenetic, gutteral voice and wide vocal range were distinctive on songs such as TV Glotzer (a reworking of the Tubes' "White Punks on Dope"), Gott Im Himmel (a cover of Norman Greenbaum's "Spirit in the Sky") and the powerful, anthemic Auf'm Friedhof. Her second LP Unbehagan, released in 1979, spawned the single African Reggae, which received a considerable amount of airplay on alternative radio stations.
In 1979, her appearance in the film Cha Cha captured the impact of new wave on the Amsterdam underground scene. The soundtrack for this film featured the first of several collaborations with new wave diva Lene Lovich, whom Nina met on the set of the film. They have since maintained a personal friendship and professional relationship. In fact, Nina included a German-language version of Lovich's new wave hit "Lucky Number" (Wir Leben Immer Noch) on Unbehagan; and in 1986 the two of them sang together in on "Don't Kill the Animals", an animal-rights song that has since appeared on various compilations.
Nina dissolved her band after the release of their second album in 1979, deciding instead to pursue a solo career. She went on to achieve a certain level of infamy, if not exactly fame, in her home country, as her decidedly anti-establishment lyrics resulted in a high level of press condemnation.
"From 1978 to 1985, the musical career of Nina Hagen flourished throughout the galaxy by virtue of her rigorous intercontinental touring schedules and the availability of her five albums on CBS Records... No matter that Nina Hagen - actress, chanteuse, political firebrand, doting mother, animal rights activist - was an anomaly in the era of punk rock and disco divas: Marlene Dietrich meets Emma Goldman on stage at the Ritz. No matter that awestru