Nena

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This article is about the singer herself. For the band of the same name, see Nena (band). For other uses, see Nena (disambiguation).
Not to be confused with Nina Hagen.
Nena
Sommernachtstraum MUC 2013 11.JPG
Nena in 2013
Background information
Birth name Gabriele Susanne Kerner
Born (1960-03-24) March 24, 1960 (age 54)
Hagen, North Rhine-Westphalia, West Germany
Genres Neue Deutsche Welle, new wave, synthpop, pop, punk rock
Occupations Musician, singer-songwriter
Instruments Vocals
Years active 1979–present
Labels CBS, Warner
Associated acts Carlo Karges
Uwe Fahrenkrog-Petersen
Jürgen Dehmel
Rolf Brendel
Peter Heppner

Gabriele Susanne Kerner (born 24 March 1960), better known by her stage name Nena, is a German singer, actress, and comedienne who rose to international fame in 1983 with the New German Wave song "99 Luftballons". In 1984, 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. In 2007, she co-founded the school "Neue Schule Hamburg".

Biography[edit]

Early life[edit]

Gabriele Susanne Kerner was born on March 24, 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, based on the Spanish word "nena" (colloquial for "niña"), or "little girl", the age of three, while on a vacation to Spain with her parents. In 1977 she left high school before graduation, and in the three following years she was trained as a goldsmith. [100 Prozent Nena, 2009. RTL]

Musical beginnings[edit]

Her musical career began in the summer of 1979 when guitarist Rainer Kitzmann offered her a position as the lead singer in his band The Stripes. The group had a minor hit with the song "Ecstasy", but never achieved mainstream success and soon disbanded.

In 1981, Nena and her then-boyfriend Rolf Brendel moved to West Berlin, 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 1982 "Nena" released their first single, "Nur geträumt" (German for "Only Dreamed"), which became an instant hit in Germany after the band appeared on the German television show Musikladen. The single reportedly sold 40,000 copies the day after the song appeared on the show and reached number two in the German charts.[2]

International success and band breakup[edit]

Nena's famous number-one single, "99 Luftballons".

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In 1983, the band released its first album Nena, which contained the singles "Leuchtturm" ("Lighthouse") and "99 Luftballons" (the English version is called "99 Red Balloons"). "99 Luftballons" became a number-one hit in West Germany in 1983 and went on to major international chart success the following year, an English version hitting number one in the UK and the original German version hitting number two in the United States, behind Van Halen's Jump. In 1984, Casey Kasem's radio show "American Top 40" introduced a "mixed" version of the song, "splicing" the German and American 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. 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. The band split in 1987, and Nena went solo thereafter. Nena's next international single "Just a Dream" (an English language re-issue of "Nur geträumt") reached number 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 90s to a new audience and became a club anthem.

Solo career[edit]

Nena's first solo album Wunder gescheh'n ("Miracles Happen") was released in late 1989. The title track, composed by Nena herself, relates to the fact that Nena was at the time pregnant with twins but its release a matter of days before the fall of the Berlin Wall 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. [1]

Return to prominence[edit]

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 Number 1 spot in the Netherlands and Austria, and Number 3 in Germany, in 2003. A DVD followed the 2005 album Willst du mit mir gehn ("Do You Wanna Go with Me?") which quickly achieved platinum status. The first single from the album, "Liebe ist" ("Love Is"), reached number 1 on the German charts in early 2005, and was the theme song for a German telenovela, Verliebt in Berlin. It reached the top position 22 years after "99 Luftballons", the longest span between first and last number 1 in German chart history.Liste der Nummer-eins-Hits in Deutschland

Nena's 2005 tour in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland in November and December 2005 had several sold-out concerts. In 2004, Nena took the stage during the Howard Jones 20th Anniversary concert at Shepherd's Bush Empire in London. Nena sang "99 Luftballons", with both German and English lyrics. In 2004, Nena went on stage at the Mayday Music Festival, in Dortmund, accompagned by the techno duo Toktok. She sang the song "Bang Bang", and was later joined on stage by DJ Westbam to sing the song "Oldschool Baby". 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" ("It's Not My Fault") in April 2007 for the film, Vollidiot (Complete Idiot). Nena also released a single for her cover of "She's a Rainbow" by the Rolling Stones. It was released in the US and the UK. Nena also recorded and released a new version of her hit song "99 Luftballons" in 2009, which more closely follows the 1980s original, in contrast to her 2002 version. This song was first performed in Germany on September 6, 2009. Some parts of the new version are in French.

Nena released a new single on 4 September 2009, called "Wir sind wahr", and a new album on the 23rd: Made in Germany. The autobiographical ballad from the album "In meinem Leben" ("In My Life") became her 14th Top 10 hit in Germany, taking her to 12th position in the all-time list of "Most Top 10 hits in Germany", the third highest placed German act and top German female.Liste der Top-10-Singles in Deutschland She has developed an interest in the teachings of Indian mystic Osho (Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh) in recent years, and practises his meditation methods, an impression of which is featured in the "Wir sind wahr" video.[3] Most recently, she 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.[4]

In late 2012 Nena released her 11th solo studio album, Du bist gut ("You're Good"), 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".

Since 1997 (and as of 2014) Nena has toured Germany and its neighbouring countries on an annual basis, typically performing between 15 and 50 concerts every year. Drawing on the full span of her 30 year back catalogue, Nena’s concerts are characterised by her infectious high energy levels, her evident enjoyment of performing live and her vocal power and versatility which can both complement the heavier sound of her live band on the fast songs and anthems as well as deliver the haunting vulnerability required by the ballads. A reviewer of her August 2014 concert in Cologne wrote, “Ever cheerful…and unstoppable…she ignited the whole crowd. By the second song, you wondered, “how could anyone not like this woman?”[2]

Other work[edit]

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 was one of the coaches on the Voice of Germany for 3 seasons before announcing her withdrawal from the show in March 2014.

In 2007, jointly with Philipp Palm, Thomas Simmerl, and Silke Steinfadt, she founded the Neue Schule Hamburg, a school following the Sudbury model.[5]

Nena wrote an autobiographical book, Willst du mit mir gehn ("Do You Want to Go with Me?"),[6] 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.

Personal life[edit]

Nena and Rolf Brendel split up in the mid '80s, Nena's feelings movingly 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. Benedict is the son of the German actress Maria Becker[7] 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.[6] 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.[8] Only two days later, Nena's son Sakias became a father to a boy named Noah.[9][10] A third grandchild (Victor, son of Larissa) was born in September 2013.

Throughout the 1990s, Nena released a wide range of solo albums, a number of them consisting of songs for children. Simultaneously, she hosted several TV shows, including Metro and Countdown Grand Prix, the German preselection for the Eurovision Song Contest, in 1998.

Since 2010, her twins (Sakias and Larissa) have appeared as backing singers on stage and on her albums.

Discography[edit]

Main article: Nena discography