Scorpions to the Hoff: fall of the Berlin Wall in music

Berlin (AFP) –


From David Bowie playing to a divided city to David Hasselhoff serenading a jubilant crowd of East and West Berliners, music helped capture the emotion of the Wall and its collapse.

Thirty years on, here's a look at the playlist of a peaceful revolution.

- 'Wind of Change' by The Scorpions -

The melancholic rock ballad, with its whistling intro, is often remembered as the anthem to the fall of the Berlin Wall. But it was in fact recorded in 1990, several months after the barrier was torn down.

Written by frontman Klaus Meine, the smash hit was inspired by a music festival the Hanover-based outfit had played in the Soviet Union, and its message of hope and freedom became the soundtrack for the end of the Iron Curtain.

It remains the best-selling single by a German band.

- 'Looking for Freedom' by David Hasselhoff -

The "Knight Rider" actor went down in music history when he performed a cover of the German 1970s hit "Looking for Freedom" in front of ecstatic East and West Berliners at a crumbling section of the Wall on New Year's Eve in 1989, wearing an unforgettable leather jacket encrusted with flashing lights.

The "Baywatch" star is still idolised in Germany, and even has a Berlin museum dedicated to him.

The Hoff continues to fill out concert halls across the country, now chanting "30 years of freedom!"

- Bowie and the Boss -

David Bowie, whose song "Heroes" had become a rallying cry for the divided city, played a concert in West Berlin in 1987 with speakers deliberately facing east so fans across the barrier could sing along.

Their shouted demands that "the Wall must go" sparked a riot that truncheon-wielding East German police moved in to crush.

"You are now among #Heroes. Thank you for helping to bring down the #wall," the German foreign ministry tweeted upon Bowie's death in 2016.

A year after Bowie's epic gig, East German leaders invited a Western superstar of their own in an effort to placate an increasingly restless youth.

"I came here to play rock'n'roll for you in the hope that one day all barriers will be torn down," Bruce "The Boss" Springsteen told a sea of approving fans, hammering another nail in the coffin of the communist state.

- Rostropovich plays Bach -

Two days after the Wall tumbled, exiled Russian cellist Mstislav Rostropovich travelled from Paris to Berlin to play a Bach suite at Checkpoint Charlie.

Images of the elderly master's impromptu performance, seated on a chair in front a graffiti-filled part of the Wall, were beamed around the world.

"A lot of people died because of this Wall. I am also playing in their memory," he said about his moving tribute.

- 'The Wall' by Pink Floyd -

While the 1979 song was not actually about the Berlin Wall, it became forever associated with it after frontman Roger Waters put on a major concert in Berlin eight months after the Wall's collapse.

Playing to a crowd of 350,000 people on a site known as the "death strip" where armed East Germans had once stood guard, Waters belted out the legendary lyrics "All in all, you're just another brick in the wall", as did Cyndi Lauper.

The show featured a 170-metre purpose-built wall that was destroyed at the end of the gig.

- 'Sonderzug nach Pankow' by Udo Lindenberg -

German rock singer Udo Lindenberg's 1983 song "Sonderzug nach Pankow" (Special train to Pankow) mocked East German leader Erich Honecker for denying him permission to perform.

The cult hit portrays Honecker as a hypocrite who secretly listens to Western radio.

It apparently did the trick because the irreverent rocker was allowed to stage his one (and only) concert in the GDR later that year... so long as he didn't play this song.

- 'La Lambada' by Kaoma -

The undisputed summer hit of 1989 in West Germany, "La Lambada" with its hip-grinding dance moves proved a popular way to celebrate the fall of the Wall that November.

A police officer captured on camera letting loose to the sultry Latin pop song perfectly encapsulated the unrestrained joy sweeping the newly reunified city.