Westernhagen lauds fans after 20 years of German rock
April 27, 1999
Web posted at: 5:46 p.m. EDT (2146 GMT)
From Bruno del Granado
CNN WorldBeat Correspondent
HAMBURG, Germany (CNN) -- Germany's Marius Müller-Westernhagen is having a fine year.
Fresh from winning "Best Male Artist" at this year's German music awards (the Echos) -- where he performed his hit "Wieder Hier" -- he's also just released his 18th album. And it's riding high on the German charts. His timeless but passionate rock makes him a big draw in Germany.
While Westernhagen says he hopes his style will also catch on in the United States soon, he focuses on keeping up with the fans he's got. And he credits their steadfast loyalty over the past two decades -- to his loyalty to them.
"I think the thing that you should never do is to be arrogant to the audience. They come, they buy your records, they buy tickets, they buy a T-shirt. They make your life possible ... and I feel responsible for them."
As for American listeners? They may not understand much of what he's got to say. While he started off singing in English -- "It's not easy with the German language, to make it sound good to the music," he says -- these days, he's crafting songs in German, for Germans.
"We as German musicians, especially my generation, it was not easy for us. We have no real musical roots. We had just terrible music in the '50s, we began looking at U.S., U.K. music. My music too, in a way, is Anglo-American music. My band is all English and American. We have nothing like the Italians or the French. We don't have that tradition in music here."
Playing in his first band as a 14-year-old rhythm guitarist, Westernhagen says he got interested in singing after hearing people like James Brown, Steve Winwood and Otis Redding.
Not until he was 25 did he even start writing in German -- although even in the beginning, says Billboard Magazine's Wolfgang Spahr, he "never did songs which do not have the feeling of himself. He is every time Westernhagen, first as an actor and now as a singer."
Now, the musician says, the substance of his music is foremost, and he doesn't care that much whether his German crooning is commercially successful or not. "Everyone without any talent, any intellect, without any vision can have a Number One record," he says. "What I can be proud of, maybe sometimes, is my work. But not about chart sellings, or positions. I can be grateful for that, but not proud."
Gerd Gebhardt, the chairman of Warner Music Germany, says Westernhagen's music is "very commercial on the one hand." With a guitar-heavy style often reminiscent of early Bruce Springsteen, Westernhagen breaks little new ground musically.
"But the lyrics, together with his music, really brings it into a situation where people love it," Gebhardt continues. "If you see him in front of 60,000, 70,000, 80,000 people -- and how he performs and everybody sings his songs -- even if you don't understand a word you're impressed."
For now, Westernhagen says he'll take what he's got and enjoy it. "People always said, how do you feel, how do you see yourself, how can you deal with that (success)? And I say that I see myself as a medium, or something that the people project something on, and I just throw it back. If I would think that I'm the guy who does that all, then my head would explode. I'm just a normal guy."