Germany’s Platinum Music King
With song lyrics in German and English
He's back! Of course, most English-speakers never knew he was gone, but Herbert Grönemeyer is one of Germany's biggest music talents. Since his first album in 1979, the German music man from Bochum has sold over 10 million recordings and had 13 of his titles go platinum in Germany alone.
Update: Read about Grönemeyer's new "12" CD released in March 2007.
Born in Göttingen in 1956, Grönemeyer started his first band when he was just 12 years old. But his talents aren't restricted to music alone. He has acted in several German films, most notably when he played the wet-behind-the-ears war correspondent on board Das Boot (The Boat) in 1981. After that, Herbie (as he is known to devoted fans) concentrated almost exclusively on music.
Although he now lives and works in London, Grönemeyer has almost always sung in German, which is one reason he is so little known outside of German Europe. Despite being featured in an MTV Unplugged concert in 1995, the German rocker so famous in Germany, Austria and German Switzerland is a virtual nobody almost anywhere else. (He made English versions of his Luxus and Chaos albums, but they never did very well.)
Grönemeyer's "Mensch" CD, his
so-called "comeback album,"
was a huge hit.
During the four years prior to this album, Grönemeyer was also pretty much unknown even in Germany, recording no new albums or songs, and doing no tours in all that time. The explanation for this is simple: 1998. By any definition, 1998 was an annus horribilis for Grönemeyer. The German singer lost both his brother Wilhelm and his wife Anna to cancer that year. The tragic double loss made Grönemeyer withdraw almost entirely from public life and recording. He took a timeout and moved to London with his son Felix and daughter Marie.
With the release of his new Mensch CD in September 2002 (recorded in London), Grönemeyer bounced back with an album that pleased both music critics and music fans. The title song zoomed up the charts to become the number one single in Germany for a time. (Although he has had many hit singles over the years, no other Grönemeyer song had ever made it to the top spot.) This is even more of an achievement when you realize that probably 95 percent of the popular music heard in Germany today is in English! It is rare for any German song to get into the top five of the pop charts. (The German Tax Song parody was another exception!)
The 2002 Grönemeyer album is one of those rare cases in which there isn't a weak song on the entire CD! But besides the big hit single, several other songs on the Mensch CD are outstanding! Despite Grönemeyer's usual penchant for obscure, difficult-to-decipher lyrics, one can enjoy what he has to say about today's Germany (in Neuland) or be touched by the tribute to his late wife (in Der Weg). Although it is definitely influenced by his loss, the new MENSCH album is very enjoyable to listen to. I agree with the many critics who have deemed it Grönemeyer's best work to date. My own favorites are Mensch, Viertel vor, and Zum Meer, but the entire CD is a great listening experience.
I first began to use Grönemeyer's songs with my high school students of German back in the 1980s. His 4630 Bochum album in 1984 was what most critics and fans call his Durchbruchalbum (breakthrough album). Many of the songs from that album have become Grönemeyer cult classics, most notably Alkohol, Bochum, Männer, and Flugzeuge im Bauch. Männer (Men) even made it into the German Top 10 in 1984. The 4630, by the way, refers to Bochum's postal code at that time. (Those were simpler times; today Bochum has the postal codes 44787 through 44892.)
Two years after Bochum, Grönemeyer released his sixth album, Sprünge (jumps). Several of my students were big fans of one of the songs on that album, Kinder an die Macht (power to the children), which is a light and lyrical anti-war song about armies of gummy bears and tanks made of marzipan (die Armeen aus Gummibärchen/die Panzer aus Marzipan).
If you aren't familiar with Grönemeyer's work, please use the pages in this feature to learn more, listen, and enjoy the German and English lyrics to his songs. I think you'll be glad you did.
MORE > Grönemeyer Info, Links
LYRICS > German and English
BUY > Grönemeyer CDs