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Jack of All Trades: Germany loves The Hoff

Of all the celebrities of the 1980s to have a successful singing career, the last person many would suspect would be David Hasselhoff. For the most part, the quality of his music is about what you could expect. The songs are incredibly campy, with cheesy lyrics that don’t say much of anything and backing music that is more bland than Walmart-brand oatmeal. The Hoff’s music, while never so much as a minor speck on the American cultural map, was so immensely popular in Cold War Germany that he could be considered a factor in the reuniting of East and West Germany.

Hasselhoff began singing in the late 1980s, releasing his album Night Rocker in 1985. The album was never so much as a blip on the radar in America, but in Germany people adored it. His success furthered with the release of his second and third albums Lovin’ Feelings and Looking for Freedom, eventually topping out at number five on the album charts for West Germany, as well as being immensely popular in East Germany. The single Looking for Freedom was especially popular, reaching number one on the German charts, and was seen by many Germans on both sides of the Iron Curtain as a makeshift pro-unity song.

The sheer popularity of Hasselhoff’s music in the eyes of the German people had been boosted by what Americans seemed to dislike most about him: his simplicity. Hanna Pilarczyk, a culture writer for Der Spiegel noted that “his music is very simple and it’s easy to clap along to.” Germans like to clap along to very straightforward rhythms.”

His popularity in Germany arguably reached its apex on New Year’s Eve 1989, where he was invited to perform at the Brandenburg Gate. Earlier on November 9th, the East German government had opened the borders of Berlin to allow passage to and from the East and West halves of the city. Berliners of both sides were together again, and their first New Year’s would be one to celebrate. A new year to be celebrated with David Hasselhoff blaring through the streets.

And on that fateful night at the Berlin Wall, Hasselhoff took the stage. Well, not so much a stage as much as a modified cherry picker. He was wearing a piano keyboard scarf and a light motion jacket, and all the while dodging renegade fireworks from the crowd below, everyone excited to see a German icon playing just for them. And he stood atop that cherry picker and lip synced Looking for Freedom like it was the best day of his life. 

While the wall wasn’t torn down until 1990, it was opened for the musical talents of David Hasselhoff for one glorious night.

Jack Gleckler is a freshman studying journalism at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnists do not reflect those of The Post. Do you agree? Tell Jack by tweeting him at @thejackgleckler.

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