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Udo Lindenberg and German Unity

No other German pop star has focused on Germany’s division to the same extent as Udo Lindenberg. He is more successful than ever in the reunified Germany.

© dpa/Bernd von Jutrczenka - Udo Lindenberg

Did the “Mädchen aus Ostberlin” – the girl from East Berlin – ever really exist? Apparently, it was indeed a short but intense encounter he had in the eastern part of the city that inspired Udo Lindenberg in 1973 to write this song in which, in his inimitable gruffly romantic style, he put the pain of Germany’s division into words. As the song has it, “All we want is to be together”. It is not to be, however, as the singing storyteller has to return to the West – he has “only a day pass” for East Berlin.

Lindenberg’s hope – packaged in soulful sounds – “that the boys will soon sort it all out” was not to be fulfilled until 16 years later when the Berlin Wall collapsed as he had so wished it would. The singer, who will be celebrating his 70th birthday in 2016, is in actual fact a bona fide West German. Born in Gronau in Westphalia, the only reason he travelled only rarely to the GDR was that he was not allowed to perform there. In his song “Sonderzug nach Pankow” (i.e. Special Train to Pankow), he gave humorous vent to his annoyance at this rejection. In words directed at Erich Honecker, the most powerful man in the GDR at the time, he sang “Ey, Honey, ich sing’ für wenig Money im Republik-Palast, wenn ihr mich lasst” (i.e. Hey Honey, I’ll sing for little money in the Palace of the Republic if only you’ll let me). The song continues: “Ich weiß genau, ich habe furchtbar viele Freunde in der DDR, und stündlich werden es mehr.” (i.e. I know for sure that I have absolutely loads of friends in the GDR, and there are more of them every hour). None of this made any difference. Lindenberg was permitted to perform just once in the GDR: on 25 October 1983 he played to a select audience at the Palace of the Republic.

Major tour begins in July

Songs like “Mädchen aus Ostberlin” and “Sonderzug nach Pankow” became the secret anthems of reunification, so it was hardly surprising that Lindenberg was invited to perform at the Brandenburg Gate on the 25th anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall. 2014 also saw him awarded the Order of Merit of the State of Berlin. This ageing rock star with the distinctive hat, sunglasses and throaty delivery, who has been living for years in a Hamburg hotel, is in fact more successful than ever in the reunified Germany. “Hinterm Horizont” (i.e. Beyond the Horizon), a musical based on the story he tells in “Mädchen aus Ostberlin”, has attracted more than a million people to the Theater am Potsdamer Platz since its 2011 debut. Lindenberg the singer fills large stadiums, accompanied by his “Panikorchester” and, more recently, also by young German artists such as Clueso and Jan Delay. His next tour is now beginning – one of the venues being Berlin’s Olympic Stadium.

Udo Lindenberg “Panikparty 2015” tour from 10 July 2015