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Nena (pronounced [ˈneːna]; born Gabriele Susanne Kerner, 24 March 1960) is a German singer-songwriter, actress, and comedian who rose to international fame in 1983 with the Neue Deutsche Welle song "99 Luftballons". In the same year she re-recorded this song in English as "99 Red Balloons".[1] Nena was also the name of the band with whom she released the song. The re-recording of some of her old songs rekindled her career in 2002 and she has sold over 25 million records, making her one of Germany's most successful music artists.[2]

Nena
2018 Sternstunden-Gala - Nena - by 2eight - DSC5745.jpg
Nena in 2018
Background information
Birth nameGabriele Susanne Kerner
Born (1960-03-24) 24 March 1960 (age 59)
Hagen, North Rhine-Westphalia, West Germany
GenresNeue Deutsche Welle, new wave, synth-pop, pop, punk rock
Occupation(s)
  • Musician
  • singer
  • songwriter
  • actress
InstrumentsVocals
Years active1979–present
LabelsCBS, Warner
Associated actsCarlo Karges, Uwe Fahrenkrog-Petersen, Jürgen Dehmel, Rolf Brendel, Peter Heppner, Kim Wilde

BiographyEdit

Early lifeEdit

Gabriele Susanne Kerner (Nena) was born on 24 March 1960 in Hagen, North Rhine-Westphalia, West Germany while her family lived in the nearby town of Breckerfeld. She spent the earliest part of her childhood in Breckerfeld and later lived in Hagen. She acquired her nickname while on a vacation to Majorca, Spain with her parents. (Nena is a Catalan word meaning 'little girl'.) In 1977 she left high school before graduation, and in the three following years she was trained as a goldsmith.

Musical beginningsEdit

Nena's musical career began on 2 July 1979 when guitarist Rainer Kitzmann founded The Stripes band and, on the basis of having seen her dancing at a local disco, asked her to audition for the position of the lead singer.[3][4] The group, based in Hagen, performed songs with English lyrics and had a minor hit with the song "Ecstasy", but never achieved mainstream success and disbanded on 3 March 1982.[5] However The Stripes's record company, CBS, offered Nena a record deal if she were to move to Berlin and make music with German lyrics.[6][7] In May 1982 Nena and her then-boyfriend Rolf Brendel therefore moved to West Berlin,[8] where they met future band members guitarist Carlo Karges, keyboard player Uwe Fahrenkrog-Petersen, and bass player Jürgen Dehmel. Together, they formed the band Nena. In June 1982 "Nena" released their first single, "Nur geträumt", which became an instant hit in Germany after the band appeared on the German television show Musikladen on 21 August 1982.[8][9] The single reportedly sold 40,000 copies the day after the song appeared on the show and reached No.2 in the German charts.[10]

1982–1987: International success and band breakupEdit

In 1983, the band released its first album Nena, which contained the singles "99 Luftballons" and "Leuchtturm". "99 Luftballons" became a number one hit in West Germany and the Netherlands in 1983 and went on to major international chart success the following year, an English version hitting No.1 in the UK and the original German version hitting No.2 in the US, behind Van Halen's "Jump".[11] In 1984, Casey Kasem's radio show American Top 40 introduced a "mixed" version of the song, "splicing" the German and English versions together. It was also a huge hit in many other countries, and to this day it is one of the best-known German rock songs in many parts of the world.

In May 1984 while on a tour in the UK, Nena made the headlines of the British red-top press for having unshaven armpits.[12][13] At the time this was not uncommon in continental Europe but was considered unusual in English-speaking countries to the extent that some people consider it explains the commercial failure there of the follow-ups to "99 Luftballons".[14] Baffled by the attention generated, Nena asked the girlfriend of her manager to shave her and has remained clean shaven ever since.[15] Referring to the "huge indignation" the issue raised, Nena, in her memoirs published in 2005, wrote, "Can a girl from Hagen, who dreams of the big wide world and is in love with Mick Jagger, have no idea that girls can't under any circumstances have hair under the arm? Yes she can. I simply had no idea!"[16]

Although "99 Luftballons" was Nena's only hit in the English-speaking world, the band continued to enjoy success in several European countries in the following years. Nena's next international single "Just a Dream" (an English language re-issue of "Nur geträumt") reached No.70 in the UK charts in 1984; it had "Indianer" on the B-side. A dance version of "Just a Dream" was released in the 1990s to a new audience and became a club anthem. The band split in 1987, and Nena went solo thereafter.

1989: Launch of solo careerEdit

Nena's first solo album Wunder gescheh'n was released on 5 November 1989. The title track (German for "Miracles Happen"), composed by Nena herself, relates to the fact that Nena was at the time pregnant with twins, but release of the album that appeared just four days before the fall of the Berlin Wall (on 9 November) and the fact that she performed the song at the end of the Konzert für Berlin three days later has ever since associated it with that historic event. It was to prove to be her last major hit of the 20th century as throughout the 1990s her albums and singles – although often critically acclaimed – were less commercially successful. In 1993, following the indifferent performance of her second solo album Bongo Girl, Sony decided not to renew Nena's recording contract, and the label which distributed her third, RMG Music Entertainment, disappeared shortly afterwards.[17] In 1995 Nena and her growing family moved from Berlin to Hamburg, borrowing money from a family friend in order to do so since her bank declined to extend credit.[18]

2002: Return to chart successEdit

 
Nena in Vienna on 3 May 2008

In 2002, Nena celebrated her 20th anniversary on stage with the album Nena feat. Nena, a disc consisting of newly arranged recordings of her hits from the 1980s. This album marked a "comeback" for Nena, and spawned a number of successful chart entries. The remake of "Anyplace, Anywhere, Anytime" as an English-German duet with Kim Wilde was a hit in various European countries, reaching the No.1 spot in the Netherlands and Austria, and No.3 in Germany, in 2003.[11]

Having regalvanised her career by virtue of her 1980s hits, Nena reestablished herself as a force with entirely new material with the 2005 album Willst du mit mir gehn which quickly achieved platinum status and climbed to No.2 in the German charts.[11] The first single from the album, "Liebe ist", reached No.1 on the German charts in early 2005, and was the theme song for a German telenovela, Verliebt in Berlin.[11] It reached the top position 22 years after "99 Luftballons", the longest span between first and last number one in German chart history (see Liste der Nummer-eins-Hits in Deutschland).

In October 2007, Nena released a new album entitled Cover Me, made up entirely of cover songs. David Bowie, Rolling Stones and Rammstein are three of the bands covered. She also released the single, "Ich kann nix dafür" in April 2007 for the film, Vollidiot, and her cover of "She's a Rainbow" by the Rolling Stones in the US and the UK. In 2009 she recorded and released a new version of her hit song "99 Luftballons", which more closely follows the 1980s original, in contrast to her 2002 version. This song was first performed in Germany on 6 September 2009. Some parts of the new version are in French.

2009: Own record labelEdit

Since 2009, Nena's releases have been published by her own record label, The Laugh & Peas Company, which also promotes the work of her daughter's group (Adameva) and that of one of her protegé's from The Voice of Germany, Sharron Levy.

Nena released a new single on 18 September 2009, called "Wir sind wahr", and a new album on 2 October: Made in Germany. The autobiographical ballad from the album "In meinem Leben" became her fourteenth Top 10 hit in Germany, taking her to 12th position in the all-time list of top-ten hits in Germany, the third highest placed German act and top German female. She also collaborated with the popular techno-rap artists Die Atzen to produce a new single, "Strobo Pop". In 2011, she contributed vocals to the track "Let Go Tonight" by Kevin Costner and Modern West.[19]

 
Nena on stage in Munich in 2013

In late 2012 Nena released her 11th solo studio album, Du bist gut, which peaked at No.2 in the German charts, although the tracks released as singles from the album were not as successful as those from her previous albums since her 2002 "comeback".[11]

Nena's next album, Oldschool, which was produced by the German rapper and hip hop artist Samy Deluxe, was released on 27 February 2015.[20] Distribution rights for the album were agreed with Sony Music, 22 years after the company dropped Nena as a recording artist.[21] The album maintained Nena's 21st century chart success pattern (Top 5 in Germany, Top 10 in Austria, Top 20 in Switzerland) but the first two singles released from the album failed to chart.[22] However, for the first time in Nena's career, another track from the album ("Magie"), which was not released as a single, crept into the lower echelons of the German singles chart solely by virtue of downloads.[11] Then, in April 2016, fourteen months after Oldschool's release, the third single from the album, "Genau jetzt", returned Nena to the German Top 30 singles chart for the first time in six years.[11]

Since 2015: CollaborationsEdit

The period since the release of Oldschool is the longest in Nena’s career without the release of a new studio album. In an era when artists tend to generate more revenue from live performances than recordings,[23][24] Nena released two live albums and restricted her studio work to one-track collaborations with Zara Larsson, Dave Stewart and fellow guests from the 2016 Sing meinen Song series. In February 2019 Nena provided vocals for the title track and lead single of Schiller’s album “Morgenstund” which entered the German album chart at number 1 and the top 10 of both the Austrian and Swiss album charts.[25][26][27]

Live performancesEdit

 
Nena on stage in Dortmund in May 2011

Since 1997 Nena has toured Germany and its neighbouring countries annually, typically performing between 15 and 50 concerts every year.[28]

In 2003, Nena took the stage during the Howard Jones 20th Anniversary concert at the Shepherd's Bush Empire in London to sing "99 Luftballons", with both German and English lyrics. In 2004, Nena went on stage at the Mayday Music Festival, in Dortmund, accompanied by the techno duo Toktok. She sang the song "Bang Bang", and was later joined on stage by DJ Westbam to perform "Oldschool Baby". In March 2015 Nena promoted the release of the Oldschool album with a "club tour" of 16 smaller venues (for 200 to 700 people) including her former primary school.[29] A recording of one of these concerts – at the SO36 club in Berlin on 4 March 2015 – was released as Nena's sixth live album Live at SO36 on 4 March 2016, exactly one year later.[30] Later in 2015 Nena announced her intention to perform live in the US for the first time by way of a similar "club tour", which was initially planned for the spring of 2016 before taking place as a 3-date "mini tour" in September and October.[31][32][33][34] During this tour, Nena met Dave Stewart with whom she collaborated to release in March 2018 the single "Be my rebel", the video for which went on to win 40 international awards.[35][36]

Nena's 2018 "Nichts Versäumt" tour of mainly sold-out concerts in 45 towns and cities attracted in excess of 250,000 fans and won the German Live Entertainment Award (LEA) for "concert hall tour of the year".[37][38] The concert in Dortmund on 29 June 2018 was recorded for the Nichts versäumt live DVD which was released on 9 November 2018.[39]

Other workEdit

Besides her singing career, she has also acted in the 1983 musical comedy film Gib Gas – Ich will Spaß (released in the US as Hangin' Out) opposite fellow musician Markus Mörl, and voiced the character Saphira for the German dub of the movie Eragon and the role of the Princess for the German version of Arthur and the Invisibles alongside Tokio Hotel's Bill Kaulitz. Kaulitz has also stated on many occasions that Nena is his favourite singer.

 
Nena appearing on Dein Song in 2008

In 2008, Nena appeared as one of the coaches on the German TV series "Dein Song", in which established artists mentor a youngster to produce a song.[40] Nena was also one of the coaches on The Voice of Germany for 3 seasons before announcing her withdrawal from the show in March 2014. In April and May 2016 she was one of the participants in the third season of Sing meinen Song, a show in which well-known artists perform each other's songs and judge their favourites.[41][42] In February 2017 and 2018 Nena appeared as a juror in the 5th and 6th seasons of The Voice Kids together with her daughter Larissa.[43][44][45]

In 2007, jointly with her partner Philipp Palm, Thomas Simmerl, and Silke Steinfadt, she founded the Neue Schule Hamburg, a school following the Sudbury model.[46]

Nena wrote an autobiographical book, Willst du mit mir gehn,[47] jointly with Claudia Thesenfitz, a journalist. Nena's contributions are her disparate accounts of various episodes in her life. Most of Thesenfitz's contributions are excerpts from interviews of many of Nena's friends, co-workers, and relatives.

Since becoming a mother, Nena has released a number of albums consisting of songs for children.[48] In the 1990s she hosted several TV shows, including Metro and Countdown Grand Prix, the German preselection for the Eurovision Song Contest, in 1998.

Influences and other interests and pursuitsEdit

In addition to citing the Ramones,[49] David Bowie and Debbie Harry as early influences, Nena's main artistic source of inspiration and her favourite band is the Rolling Stones.[31] Nena has covered their songs in concert and on her 2007 Cover Me album.[50] In 1984 Nena said, "If I hadn't started listening to the Rolling Stones when I was 12 I'd have been a different person, a secretary or something like that."[51]

Although Nena said she disliked the English version of "99 Luftballons" because it was too "blatant" and that the Nena band was neither political nor a protest band,[51][52] she has occasionally publicly lent her name in support of political causes. She supports "Ehe für alle" (marriage for everyone) and, as a mother of five, a campaign against the German government's plans to scale back the state provision of midwifery services.[53] Nena has been a member of various charity ensembles and supergroups including "Band für Afrika" (Germany's equivalent of Band Aid) in 1985 and "Marlon und Freunde" in 2006, whose Top 10 hit in Germany "Lieber Gott" raised funds for flood victims. Nena also supports local causes and in 2015 ran (in socks) 2.5 kilometres (approximately 1.5 miles) in aid of a Stuttgart children's hospice.[54]

Nena is a vegetarian and won the PETA (Germany) award for "Sexiest Vegetarian of the Year 2010".[55] She believes in Jesus and God and says that thanking him for every new day is the cornerstone of her spirituality.[56][57]

From time to time suspicions of drug use have surfaced, particularly in light of Nena's high energy levels on stage. However, in his 2014 biography of the Nena band, Rolf Brendel, its drummer and Nena's boyfriend at the time said that although other band members experimented with drugs, Nena never did and frowned upon it.[58] Brendel added, "Nena is naturally stoned, she doesn't need to take drugs." [58]

Personal lifeEdit

 
Nena on stage in 2018 flanked by her twin children Sakias and Larissa. Her youngest son Simeon (obscured) is behind her.

Nena and the band's drummer Rolf Brendel split up in 1987, Nena's feelings described in the song "Jetzt bist du weg" ("Now You Are Gone") from the band's final album, Eisbrecher. Nena then started dating Swiss actor Benedict Freitag shortly after the band separated in 1987; he is the son of the German actress Maria Becker[59] and Austrian-Swiss actor Robert Freitag. The couple had three children together, the first being Christopher Daniel, who was born disabled allegedly due to medical mistakes made during the birth that caused Nena to go into cardiac arrest.[47] He died at the age of 11 months. In 1990 they had twins, Larissa Marie and Sakias Manuel. After splitting with Freitag, Nena started a relationship with drummer and music producer Philipp Palm from Stuttgart, with whom she had two children, Samuel Vincent (1995), and Simeon Joel (1997). The couple and the four children currently live in Hamburg. On Christmas Day 2009, Nena became a grandmother when Larissa gave birth to a girl, Carla Maria.[60] Only two days later, Nena's son Sakias became a father to a boy named Noah.[61][62] A third grandchild (Victor, son of Larissa) was born in September 2013 and a fourth in May 2018.[63][64]

Since 2010, Nena's twins Sakias and Larissa have appeared as backing singers on stage and on her albums, and since 2015 her youngest son Simeon has joined her on stage playing keyboards.[20][65]

DiscographyEdit

FilmographyEdit

Concert films

Leading roles

Supporting roles

Guest appearances

Voice roles

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ "Nena (Biography on Pandora)". Retrieved 13 November 2011.
  2. ^ "Bio". Nena.de. 1 March 2016. Retrieved 16 September 2018.
  3. ^ "Inception of The Stripes band". Nena.de. Retrieved 16 November 2016.
  4. ^ Thesenfitz p 13
  5. ^ "The Stripes have disbanded". Nena.de. Retrieved 16 November 2016.
  6. ^ Thesenfitz p24
  7. ^ Brendel, p52
  8. ^ a b "Das Lexicon von Nena". Pop/rocky staralbum. Free supplement "Nena": 8. 1983.
  9. ^ "Musikladen – ARD television premiere of 'Nur geträumt'". Nena.de. Retrieved 16 November 2016.
  10. ^ Rolf Hosfeld; Hermann Pölking (2007). Die Deutschen 1972 bis heute: Auf dem Weg zu Einheit und Freiheit (in German). Piper. ISBN 978-3-492-04927-6. Retrieved 3 August 2013. Gabriele Susanne Kerner, die sich Nena nennt, 1982 in der »ZDFHitparade«. Nena ist eine Stilikone. ... Der »Musikladen«-Auftritt bringt am darauffolgenden Tag den Erfolg: 40000 Singles werden an einem Tag abgesetzt. Auch international ...
  11. ^ a b c d e f g "Nena – German chart history". Officialcharts.de. GfK Entertainment. Retrieved 19 December 2014.
  12. ^ Wiedemeier, Isabelle. "Haare sollen wieder wuchern". News.de. Retrieved 27 March 2016.
  13. ^ Körber, Lara. "Miley macht auf Nena". Bild.de. Retrieved 27 March 2016.
  14. ^ Khan, Andrew. "Sounds of Germany – day one: a history of German pop in 10 songs". Guardian.com. Guardian News and Media. Retrieved 27 March 2016.
  15. ^ "Hairy celebrities". Livejournal.com. Archived from the original on 7 November 2014. Retrieved 27 March 2016.
  16. ^ Kerner, Nena; Thesenfitz, Claudia (2005). Willst du mit mir gehn. Verlagsgruppe Lübbe. p. 308. ISBN 3-7857-2135-8.
  17. ^ "Bongo Girl – Nena". AllMusic. All Media Network. Retrieved 3 December 2015.
  18. ^ Thesenfitz/Kerner p240-2
  19. ^ "Kevin Costner feat. Nena – 'Let Go Tonight'". Nena.de. Retrieved 17 November 2016.
  20. ^ a b "Oldschool album credits and info". Nena.de. Retrieved 17 November 2016.
  21. ^ "Nena signs for Sony". Schlagerplanet.com. Retrieved 17 February 2015.
  22. ^ "Nena Oldschool". Austriancharts.at. Retrieved 4 June 2015.
  23. ^ "Taylor Swift Tops Billboard's Top Money-Makers List of 2015". billboard.com. Retrieved 30 March 2019.
  24. ^ Wang, Amy X. "How Musicians Make Money — Or Don't at All — in 2018". rollingstone.com. Penske Business Media LLC. Retrieved 30 March 2019.
  25. ^ "Schiller & Nena "Morgenstund"". jumpradio.de. Retrieved 30 March 2019.
  26. ^ "Schiller Morgenstund". Offiziellecharts.de. GfK Entertainment. Retrieved 30 March 2019.
  27. ^ "Schiller - Morgenstund". dutchcharts.nl. Retrieved 4 April 2019.
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  30. ^ "Live at SO36". Nena.de. Nena official website. Retrieved 17 November 2016.
  31. ^ a b Crasshole, Walter. "Nena looks back". Exberliner.com. Iomauna Media. Retrieved 17 November 2016.
  32. ^ "Nena – she's going on a 2016 US tour". Gala.de. Action Press. Retrieved 25 November 2015.
  33. ^ "Nena schwärmt von Beziehung zu Freund Phil". n-tv.de. Retrieved 29 April 2016.
  34. ^ "US: Nena Delivers "99 Luftballons" to Eager Fans in her First American Tour". Bmg.com. BMG Rights Management. Retrieved 7 October 2016.
  35. ^ Graff, Gary. "Dave Stewart & Nena Explain Their Unlikely Musical Team-Up, Share 'Be My Rebel'". Billboard.com. Retrieved 25 March 2018.
  36. ^ "Nena & Dave Stewart: Be my Rebel". widrichfilm.com. Virgil Widrich Film- und Multimediaproduktions G.m.b.H. Retrieved 13 April 2019.
  37. ^ Grace, Anna. "Theatre producer Mehr-BB wins big at PRG LEA 2019". iq-mag.net. International Live Music Conference Ltd. Retrieved 4 April 2019.
  38. ^ "Nenas Jubiläumstour zog 250.000 Fans an". Mediabiz.de. Retrieved 14 September 2018.
  39. ^ "NENA - NICHTS VERSÄUMT LIVE". Nena.de. Laugh & Peas GmbH. Retrieved 8 October 2018.
  40. ^ "Nena Dates 2008". Nena.de. Laugh and Peas GmBH. Retrieved 9 September 2018.
  41. ^ "Xavier Naidoo holt Nena zu Sing meinen Song". Dwdl.de. DWDL. Retrieved 5 January 2016.
  42. ^ "Sing meinen Song – das Tauschkonzert". Vox.de. RTL interactive. Retrieved 29 April 2016.
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  44. ^ "Nena mit Tochter bei "The Voice Kids"". Bild.de. Bild. Retrieved 27 February 2017.
  45. ^ "'The Voice Kids' mit Nena, Mark Forster & Co. startet im Februar". VIP.de. RTL Interactive GmbH. Retrieved 11 February 2018.
  46. ^ vom Lehn, Von Birgitta (9 April 2007). "Nena gründet eine Schule". Berliner Morgenpost. Retrieved 30 August 2009.
  47. ^ a b Willst du mit mir gehn, Nena Kerner and Claudia Thesenfitz, Lübbe, 2005, page 182.
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  50. ^ "Cover Me – playlist and info". Nena.de. Retrieved 17 November 2016.
  51. ^ a b Corbijn, Anton. "Nena: the girl from C&A". New Musical Express. 5 May 1984: 28.
  52. ^ "99 red herrings". Record Mirror. 10 March 1984. p. 14.
  53. ^ "Nena für Hebammen". Hebammen-bw.de. Hebammenverband Badenwürttemberg. Retrieved 26 September 2015.
  54. ^ "Weil im Schönbuch: Spendenlauf zu Gunsten des Kinderhospizes Stuttgart". Gemeindeklick.de. Nussbaum Medien. Archived from the original on 28 September 2015. Retrieved 26 September 2015.
  55. ^ "Bill Kaulitz und Nena sind 'Sexiest Vegetarians 2010'". Peta.de. PETA Deutschland. Retrieved 26 September 2015.
  56. ^ "Nena: Jesus gibt mir Trost". Jesus.ch. Retrieved 27 September 2015.
  57. ^ "Nena möchte ihr Leben so spielerisch wie möglich gestalten". Newsburger.de. Retrieved 27 September 2015.
  58. ^ a b Zollner, Michael. "Nenas wilder Ex-freund packs aus". Bild.de. Retrieved 26 September 2015.
  59. ^ "Home". Schweizer Radio und Fernsehen (SRF). Retrieved 16 September 2018.
  60. ^ "Nena is for the first time a grandmother" (in German). 30 December 2009. Retrieved 17 January 2010.
  61. ^ "Zwillinge machen Nena zur Doppeloma". Die Welt (in German). 12 January 2010. Retrieved 17 January 2010.
  62. ^ "Nena becomes a grandmother, again". The Local. 12 January 2010. Retrieved 17 January 2010.
  63. ^ "Nena – Enkel Victor ist da". Gala.de. Action Press. Retrieved 19 December 2014.
  64. ^ "Nena verrät: "Ich schwimme nicht im Geld"". t-online.de. Retrieved 26 November 2018.
  65. ^ "Nena at your fingertips in Kreuzberger SO36". Berliner Morgenpost. Retrieved 11 March 2015.

External linksEdit