Nina Hagen  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Nina Hagen (born Catharina Hagen on March 11, 1955) is a German singer.


Early years

Hagen's parents are Hans Hagen (also known as Hans Oliva), a scriptwriter, and Eva-Maria Hagen, an actress and singer. Her paternal Jewish grandparents died in Sachsenhausen concentration camp. Her parents divorced when she was two years old, and growing up she saw her father infrequently. At age four, she began to study ballet, and was considered an opera prodigy by the time she was nine.

When Hagen was 11, her mother married Wolf Biermann, an anti-establishment singer-songwriter. Biermann's political views incalculably influenced young Hagen: she was "dishonorably discharged" from the so-called Free German Youth group at age 12, and active in political protests against the socialist East German government.

Hagen left school after completing the 10th grade (at age 16), and joined the cover band "Fritzens Dampferband" (Fritz's Steamboat Band, together with Achim Mentzel and others). She added songs by Janis Joplin and Tina Turner to the "allowable" setlists during shows.

From 1972-3, Hagen enrolled in the crash-course performance program at The Central Studio for Light Music in East Berlin. Upon graduation, formed the band Automobil.

Music career


In East Germany, she performed with the band Automobil, becoming one of the country's best-known young stars. Her most famous song from the early part of her career was "Du hast den Farbfilm vergessen" ("You forgot the Colour Film") in 1974. However, her musical career in East Germany was cut short when she and her mother left the country in 1976, following the expulsion of her stepfather.

The circumstances surrounding the family's emigration were exceptional: Biermann was granted permission to perform a televised concert in Cologne, but denied permission to re-cross the border to his home country. During a period when bureaucracy was the norm, and families divided by the Berlin Wall had not seen one another in decades, Hagen submitted an application to leave the country. In it, she claimed to be Biermann's biological daughter, and threatened to become the next Wolf Biermann if not allowed to rejoin her father. Just four days later, her request was granted, and she settled in Hamburg, where she was signed to a CBS-affiliated record label. Her label advised her to acclimate herself to Western culture through travel, and she arrived in London during the height of the punk rock movement. Hagen was quickly taken up by a circle that included The Slits and the Sex Pistols; Johnny Rotten was a particular admirer.

Back in Germany by the summer of 1977, Hagen formed the Nina Hagen Band in West Berlin's Kreuzberg district. In 1978 they released their self-titled debut album, which included the single "TV-Glotzer" (a cover of "White Punks on Dope" by The Tubes, though with entirely different German lyrics), and Auf'm Bahnhof Zoo, about West Berlin's then-notorious Berlin Zoologischer Garten station. The album also included a version of "Rangehn" (approximately, "Go On"), a song she had previously recorded in East Germany, but with different music.

According to reviewer Fritz Rumler,

… she thrusts herself into the music, aggressively, directly, furiously, roars in the most beautiful opera alto, then, through shrieks and squeals, precipitates into luminous soprano heights, she parodies, satirises, and howls on stage like a dervish.

The album gained significant attention throughout Germany and abroad, both for its hard rock sound and for Hagen's theatrical vocals, far different from the straightforward singing of her East German recordings. However, relations between Hagen and the other band members deteriorated over the course of the subsequent European tour, and Hagen decided to leave the band in 1979, though she was still under contract to produce a second album. This LP, Unbehagen (which in German also means discomfort or unease), was eventually produced with the band recording their tracks in Berlin and Hagen recording the vocals in Los Angeles, California. It included the single "African Reggae" and a cover of Lene Lovich's "Lucky Number". The other band members sans Hagen, soon developed a successful independent musical career as Spliff.

Meanwhile, Hagen's public persona was steadily creating media uproar and she became infamous for an appearance on an Austrian talk show called Club 2, in which she demonstrably described masturbation techniques. She also acted with Dutch rocker Herman Brood and singer Lene Lovich in the movie Cha Cha.


A European tour with a new band in 1980 was cancelled, and Hagen turned to the United States. A limited-edition 10-inch EP was released on vinyl that summer in the U.S. Two songs from her first album Nina Hagen Band were on the A side, and two songs from her second album Unbehagen were on the B-side. All four songs were sung in German.

In the fall of 1980, Hagen discovered she was pregnant, broke up with the father-to-be Ferdinand Karmelk, and moved to Los Angeles. Her daughter, Cosma Shiva Hagen, was born in Santa Monica on May 17, 1981. In 1982, Hagen released her first English-language album: NunSexMonkRock, a dissonant mix of punk, funk, reggae, and opera. She then went on a world tour with the No Problem Orchestra.

In 1983, she released the album Angstlos and a minor European tour. By this time, Hagen's public appearances were becoming stranger and frequently included discussions of God, UFOs, her social and political beliefs, animal rights and vivisection and claims of alien sightings. The English version of Angstlos, Fearless, generated two major club hits in America, "Zarah" (a cover of the Zarah Leander song "Ich weiss, es wird einmal ein Wunder geschehen") and the disco/punk/opera song, "New York New York". From 1984 to 1985, she dated Anthony Kiedis, the lead singer of the Red Hot Chili Peppers.Template:Fact

Her 1985 album Nina Hagen In Ekstasy fared less well, but did generate club hits with "Universal Radio" and a cover of "Spirit In The Sky" and also featured a 1979 recording of her hardcore punk take on Frank Sinatra's My Way, which had been one of her signature live tunes in previous years. Her contract with CBS over, she released the Punk Wedding EP independently in 1987, a celebration of her marriage to an 18-year-old-punk nicknamed 'Iroquois'. It followed an independent 1986 one-off single with Lene Lovich, the anthemic Don't Kill The Animals. In 1989, Hagen released the album Nina Hagen which was backed up by another German tour.

In 1989 she had a relationship with Frank Chevallier from France, with whom she has a son, Otis Chevallier-Hagen.


In the 1990s, Hagen lived in Paris with her daughter Cosma Shiva and son Otis. In 1991 she toured Europe in support of her new album Street. In 1992 Hagen became the host of a TV show on RTLplus. The following year, she released Revolution Ballroom and two years later the German-language album Freud Euch appeared, recorded in English as Beehappy in 1996. Also in 1996, Hagen collaborated with electronic music composer Christopher Franke, along with Rick Jude on "Alchemy of Love", the theme song for the film Tenchi Muyo! in Love. In 1997 she collaborated with German hip hop musician Thomas D.

In 1998, Hagen became the host of a weekly science fiction show on the British Sci-Fi Channel, in addition to embarking on another tour of Germany. In 1999, she released the devotional album Om Namah Shivay, which was distributed exclusively online and included an unadulterated musical version of the Hare Krishna mantra (in real life she believes that the Hindu incarnation of God known as Krishna was 'the king of Jerusalem'). She also sang "Witness" on KMFDM's Adios.

Also in 1998 she recorded the official club anthem (Eisern Union !) for FC Union Berlin and four versions were issued on a CD single by G.I.B Music and Distribution GmbH.

In 1999, she played the role of Celia Peachum in The Threepenny Opera by Kurt Weil and Berthold Brecht, alongside Max Raabe.


In 2000, her song Schön ist die Welt became the official song of Expo 2000. Another cover of a Zarah Leander song "Der Wind hat mir ein Lied erzählt" was a minor hit the same year. The album The Return of the Mother was released in February 2001, accompanied by another German tour. In 2001 she collaborated with Rosenstolz and Marc Almond on the single Total eclipse/Die schwarze Witwe that reached #22 in Germany.

Hagen dubbed the voice of Sally in the German release of Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas, and she has also done voice work on the movie Hot Dogs by Michael Schoemann. Hagen has been featured on songs by other bands, for instance on Oomph!'s song "Fieber". She did a cover of Rammstein's "Seemann" with Apocalyptica. Later albums include Big Band Explosion, in which she sang numerous swing covers with her then husband, Lucas Alexander. This was followed by Heiß, a greatest hits album. Her most recent album, Journey to The Snow Queen, is more of an audio book- she reads the Snow Queen fairy tale with Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker in the background. In 2005 Nina Hagen headlined the Drop Dead Festival in New York City. Hagen has been an active protester against the war in Iraq. In 2006 Nina was a part of the Popstars team.



  • Nina Hagen Band (1978) (gold in Germany)
  • Unbehagen (1979) (gold in Germany)
  • Nina Hagen Band - EP (1980), released in North America, compilation of material from Nina Hagen Band and Unbehagen
  • NunSexMonkRock (1982)
  • Angstlos (1983), released in English language as Fearless (1984)
  • In Ekstase (1985), released in English as In Ekstasy (1985)
  • Punk Wedding EP (1987)
  • Nina Hagen (1989)
  • Street (1991)
  • Rock aus Deutschland: Nina Hagen, compilation of East German material (1992)
  • Revolution Ballroom (1993)
  • Freud Euch (1995), released in English as BeeHappy (1996)
  • Die Dreigroschenoper (1999)
  • Om Namah Shivay (1999)
  • Return of the Mother (2000)
  • Big Band Explosion (2003)
  • Irgendwo auf der Welt (2006)


Year Title Chart-Position Album


1982 „Smack Jack“ - - - 7 - Nunsexmonkrock

1991 „Ein Herz kann man nicht reparieren“ (feat. Udo Lindenberg) 29 - – - - Ich will dich haben (Udo Lindenbrg)

1991 „In My World“ - - 19 - - Street

1998 „Solo“ (Thomas D. & Nina Hagen) 15 36 26 - - Solo (Thomas D.)

2000 „Der Wind hat mir ein Lied erzählt“ 96 - - - - Return of the Mother

2001 „Total Eclipse/Die schwarze Witwe“ (AnNa R & Marc Almond & Nina Hagen) 22 - - - - Kassengift (Rosenstolz)

2003 „Seemann“ (Apocalyptica feat. Nina Hagen) 13 35 73 - 18 Reflections (Apocalyptica)

2004 „Immer Lauter“ - 28 - - - Non-Album Track


  • Both of my parents were atheists, and I found the way to God all alone on my own. You have to invite him, so that he shows up.
  • Asked if she was happy, she replied: Of course, I'm a family member of Christ and I have a Lord. He marched ahead of me and showed me the way. Both quotes from an interview in Zeit Online, April 11, 2006. However, she also believes that Lord Sri Krishna was the king of Jerusalem and chants Hare Krishna (as stated on her website).

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