Germany's Schlager superstars still hitting the right note
Since she emerged as a singer and variety TV star willing to revive a distinctly old-fashioned repertoire of uplifting Schlager ballads, Fischer has sold well over 10 million records in Germany alone. Songs like "Atemlos durch die Nacht" ("Breathless Through the Night") have dominated the charts, and the Russian-born pop princess is no stranger to kitschy TV shows like Schlagercountdown.
Having sold more than 50 million albums since his 1967 solo debut, Heino is a Schlager pioneer known for his trademark dark sunglasses, platinum mop top and rich baritone voice. His smash hits range from "Jenseits des Tales" ("Beyond the Valley") to covers of controversial folk tunes such as "Schwarzbraun ist die Haselnuss" ("Black-brown is the Hazelnut") that were sung by the Hitler Youth.
Jürgen Drews landed a mega hit with "Ein Bett im Kornfeld" ("A bed in a cornfield") in 1976. Today, Germans label the seemingly ageless singer "king of Mallorca" because he has for decades been a staple on the German party scene on the Spanish island. Drews actually started his career playing the banjo in a jazz band.
The 1969 "Mendocino" was Michael Holm's first big hit, and "Tränen lügen nicht" ("Tears don't lie") made it to first place in the charts in 1974. He helped orchestrate a mega Schlager revival in the late 1990s by producing Guildo Horn's hit album "Danke" in 1997.
She won the Eurovision Song Contest in 1980 and came in third twice, in 1970 and 1971 - Katja Ebstein is regarded as the competition's German grande dame. Ebstein's hit song "Wunder gibt es immer wieder" ("There will always be miracles") is an integral part of the German Schlager repertoire. Ebstein also acts in plays, is involved in social projects and politically active.
The Berlin-born singer and composer (and songwriter for Boney M. and others) rose from obscurity in 1965 with his immortal Schlager anthem, "Marmor, Stein, und Eisen bricht" ("Marble Breaks And Iron Bends") — an English version later charted in the US. The boy from working-class Wedding was a rebel who had issues with alcohol, but still released some 260 songs before his death in 2006.
Known for his blonde locks, casual hip swing and beaming smile, Marcus' 1972 release "A New Love is like a New Life" has become one of the best-known songs in Schlager history, a staple of any German record collection. "Music is wonderful because you can capture people's emotions," Marcus once said of the sing-along favorites he performed incessantly until his recent death in May at the age of 69.
Andrea Jürgens was a 10-year-old in 1977 when she sang what would become one of the all-time Schlager classics, "Und dabei liebe ich euch beide" ("And Yet I Love You Both"), which was composed by Schlager hit-maker Jack White. Child star Jürgens would peak young, but returned with a No. 1 in 2010 with "I Only Have a Heart." She died of kidney failure in 2017 after a 40-year career.
Schlager has had its fair share of miscreants and eccentrics who are not afraid to play with the genre's kitschy cliches. With his trademark high-energy hilarity (including climbing all over the stage during his 1998 Eurovision appearance), and gaudy velvet green suit, this Schlager provocateur hit the charts in the 1990s with songs like "I like Steffi Graf" and "Guildo loves you."
Berg was 26 when she went from being a nurse to a Schlager hit-maker with the album "Du bist frei" ("You Are Free") and smash singles like "Schau mir nochmal ins Gesicht" ("Look Me in the Face Again") and "Splitternackt" ("Stark Naked"). A 2001 greatest hits album went five-times platinum, selling 2 million copies. More recently, the singer won the Echo Award for best Schlager singer in 2017.
Germany's biggest Schlager festival came to Hamburg at the weekend. DW profiles this uniquely European music genre, which combines traditional folk, Johann Strauss waltzes and pop sensibilities with kitschy stage antics.
With its simple song structures, saccharine melodies and banal yet heart-wrenching lyrics, folksy Schlager music has been on high rotation on German golden oldies radio and in beer halls for decades.
While 1960s Schlager pioneers like Heino sang songs that borrowed from traditional folk, 19th century waltzes and early pop music, it was through popular TV shows like Deutsche Hitparade (1969–2000) and Disco (1971–1982) that Schlager developed into a kitschy, disco-infused hybrid that has since taken it onto dance floors across the German-speaking world.
No longer just a staple of the working-class masses who could sing along to schmaltzy anthems in local pubs and at parties, Schlager now permeates nightclubs and cocktail bars.
Reinvented for the dance floor
Schlager legends like Roland Kaiser have since added a Euro disco edge to their traditional song repertoire, with the singer-songwriter teaming up with Maite Kelly of Kelly Family fame in 2014 to sing "Warum hast du nicht nein gesagt" ("Why Didn't You Say No"), which currently has nearly 75 million views on YouTube.
In recent years, the likes of Schlager queen Helene Fischer have further reinvented the genre and sold over 10 million records in the process. Her 2013 megahit "Atemlos durch die Nacht" ("Breathless Through the Night") reworked classic Schlager via an uplifting Eurobeat rhythm that assured high rotation on dance floors across the nation — and a new generation of fans.
But an earlier generation of singers like Andrea Jürgens, who in 1977 sang one of the great Schlager standards at the young age of 10 with "Und dabei liebe ich euch beide" ("And Yet I Love You Both"), will long be associated with the golden age of the highly nostalgic and sentimental song genre.
Explore the picture gallery above to discover 10 legends of Schlager whose uplifting melodies and epic choruses will live long in German hearts.