Godmother of Punk - Nina Hagen

written on 22/08/2020
by Jutta Triebe

I grew up with the music of Nina, who literally shouted everything out into the world that she didn’t agree with in society and had no qualms about breaking every unwritten rule and offending as many people as possible.

Nina Hagen was the scandalous rebel of my youth, a human and animal rights activist. Shrill and loud, she dared to do what others only dreamed of - Punk and New Wave in Germany would have been nothing without her.

She was born in 1955 in East Berlin to a family of artists. Her father was a scriptwriter, her mother the actress Eva-Maria Hagen. At the age of four, she began taking ballet lessons.

When Nina was 11, her mother married the East Berlin songwriter Wolf Biermann, an opponent of the regime and a critic who probably influenced her development significantly.

In East Germany, Nina performed with the band 'Automobil' and became one of the young stars. Her most famous song was "Du hast den Farbfilm vergessen” in 1974 (You forgot the colour film) which was a subtle parody of the sterile, grey communist state.

Nina followed her stepfather to Hamburg in the West, when he was stripped of East German citizenship in 1976.

The story of Wolf Biermann's 'expatriation' and Nina's subsequent naturalisation in the West is also worth mentioning: after a concert in Cologne, Biermann was simply refused re-entry to the East. Nina immediately asked to be allowed to leave to her "biological" father or else she would become the next 'Biermann' in the East. Four days later, the request was granted.

In the West she got offers for record contracts and continued her musical career. The titles of her first solo records in the West were indicative: NunSexMonkRock (1982), Angstlos (Fearless) (1983) and In Ekstase (1985).

When Nina was nine years old, everyone would have predicted a steep career in opera or as a ballet dancer. She was exceptionally gifted. However, she decided otherwise.

Nina Hagen wrote three autobiographies and created her own UFO fashion underwear at anti-SAFT in Zurich. She made it onto the cover of Cosmopolitan.

She decided twice to be a single mum when pregnant, married twice in 1987 (released record: Punk Wedding) and again in 1996 a man 15 years younger.

Her song "Schön ist die Welt" became the official song of Expo 2000, and she recorded the official club anthem (Eisern Union!) for the football club ‘Union Berlin’- in 1998. Read the article about the club here.

She is vegetarian and released "Don't Kill the Animals" (Animal Liberation) to support PETA. Etc, etc, etc…     

You can watch a German documentary on YouTube about Nina, her mum Eva-Maria and her as well talented daughter Cosma - Part 1 and Part 2.

There  is also a very interesting interview in English with Nina Hagen from 1984. Have a look.

Photo 1: ©Dirk Herbert, Photo 2: ©Bill DeRouchey