The classics are always in style. Nowhere is that more true than in music. A good song is timeless, whether it’s classical symphonies or rock tunes that get your toes tapping. This month to learn and practice German with music, I’m featuring a classic German rock musician: Marius Müller-Westernhagen. From his roots in the 1970s to a 2016 MTV Unplugged album, Müller-Westernhagen is a musician that you simply can’t pin down.
About Marius Müller-Westernhagen
Marius Müller-Westernhagen, or Westernhagen as he is sometimes more simply known, was born in Düsseldorf, Germany on December 6, 1948. By his early teens, he had already started an acting career. And it is an acting career that has seen some success. Throughout the 1960s, ’70s, ’80s and ’90s he continued to appear on television and film. The turning point was 1977’s Aufforderung zum Tanz and its 1980 sequel Theo gegen den Rest der Welt. He starred in both films and even won several awards for his individual contributions.
The Music of Marius Müller-Westernhagen
But Westernhagen’s music career was developing in parallel to that of his acting. His 1975 debut was the aptly named Das erste Mal (or The First Time). Similarly, 1978’s Mit Pfefferminz bin ich dein Prinz was not initially successful but later became a cult favorite.
Throughout the 1980s Westernhagen continued to be quite prolific and regularly released new albums. The recordings were often released annually. In fact, 1985 and 1988 were the only years during the decade that did not see an original full-length album from him. He did, however, release a compilation album in 1985 entitled Laß uns leben – 13 Balladen 1974-1985.
And it was just around 1989/1990 that Westernhagen’s music seemed to really breakthrough. His 1990 track “Freiheit” became one of many anthems in Germany as the country began the period of reunification. Similarly, he released a well-received live album titled, Live. His 1989 album Halleluja and 1992 album Jaja both saw particular success. Both of the albums went double platinum in Germany and spent more than a year on the charts.
Since the 1990s, Westernhagen’s musical releases have waned somewhat. He has continued to put out new music but he has not be as prolific as during his earlier years. He released only three albums between 2000 and 2010. His most recent full-length album is 2014’s Alphatier. Westernhagen also saw great success reinterpreting his songs on 2016’s MTV Unplugged.
Westernhagen’s Sound & Innovation
Westernhagen is notorious, however, for continuing to experiment with his work and reinvent himself. In both his work in film and in music he has regularly taken chances, tried new things and collaborated with new individuals. For example, he began releasing music simply under the name of Westernhagen starting with his 1987 album of the same name.
There’s a gruff tone and texture to Westernhagen’s voice that, especially on his upbeat rock tracks such as “Sexy,” really comes shining through. Even on some of his ballads, his throaty croak or growl peeks out against the backdrop of smooth instrumentation. And his sound has some variety. “Es geht mir gut,” from Affentheater, has a country twang and a German Schlager boogie.
Looking for another Ohrwurm to help you learn German? Check out previously featured musicians and bands!
Photo used courtesy Universal Music Germany. This post contains affiliate links.