German Music: Rocker Rio Reiser

Learn German, German Music

Practice German language with the music of rocker Rio Reiser!

Good music is timeless. And a classic never goes out of style. Or perhaps you just have a soft spot for for a certain musician that makes you feel nostalgic for a seemingly simpler time. This month’s I’m featuring Rio Reiser for the German language music post. Although Reiser died from circulatory collapse in 1996, his impact is still felt and remembered today in the German music scene.

About Rio Reiser

Rio Reiser was born Ralph Christian Möbius in 1950. He spent his childhood moving around Germany due to his father’s career at Siemens. As a teenager, he convinced his mother to allow him to drop out of school and pursue photography. But he soon gave that up for music instead in Berlin.

Ton Steine Scherben

In 1970, Reiser and three friends (R.P.S. Lanrue, Kai Sichtermann, and Wolfgang Seidel) formed the band Ton Steine Scherben. A mix of raw punk, folk and rock, the band often featured political lyrics that were anti-capitalist and anarchist. They released their debut, “Warum geht es mir so dreckig?,” in 1971. Although the line-up changed over the years, during the band’s 15 year lifespan they released five albums (including two double-albums) and one live album (from a 1984 show in Berlin). Three live albums were released posthumously.

Even a future German politician, the Green Party’s Claudia Roth, managed the band for several years in the 1980s.

Rio Reiser Goes Solo

After the band’s demise, Reiser continued to make music but as a solo artist. It was a move that dismayed many of the band’s fans who felt he had sold out by going mainstream. In 1986 he released Rio I. which includes his memorable trademark track “König von Deutschland.” The album also features the track “Junimond,” a thoroughly ’80s sounding ballad with a lovely melody you won’t soon be forgetting.

The album was on a major label and saw Reiser work with a famous German producer. His solo career went so well he was able to quickly payoff debts that still existed even after the demise of his former band. He continued to make music and tour. Reiser released five further solo albums.

Reiser’s Legacy

In addition to his music career, Reiser also was an actor. While his roles were not many, they did span more than two decades. He made his debut in 1977’s Johnny West. His other roles include several appearances on the popular television show Tatort.

Reiser set many precedents in Germany. Ton Steine Scherben were considered one of the country’s first major rock bands. Reiser was one of Germany’s first openly gay rock stars.

Reiser’s influence is still seen in today’s music scene. His music, both solo and with Ton Steine Scherben, is much beloved by German language musicians who frequently cover his material. Einstürzende Neubauten‘s Alexander Hacke recently released a cover of “Irrlicht.”

Looking for another Ohrwurm to help you learn German? Check out previously featured musicians and bands!

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