To understand the following, you have to keep in mind that basically all germans for several generations have grown up with the stories of the brave and noble apache chief Winnetou, and his friend Old Shatterhand. The german author Karl May penned those, claiming they were the novelized diaries of his travels of the wild west — while never having left german soil.
Then 1945 the GIs came in and were eventually seen as saviours, so everything America was simply the best.
So we got us french hearthrob actor Pierre Brice to perform the very same role of the noble indian. (And from the point of view of my ten year old self, this is of course not racist or wrong in any way. Yeah, ten-year-old me was kinda stupid.)
Thankfully, at some point even us germans realized how wrong this was and instead decided to parody the whole thing:
So, aside from the movies, country & western music actually has quite a fan following in Germany.Of course, we initially needed it to be translated, and, well, germanized:
But soon enough, real german country bands showed up and we made things our own, especially once we figured out that country music can be coupled with trucks:
Yes, this is a song about someone driving 120 pigs to Beirut. Why? No one knows…
Truck Stop is, for better or worse, the german country band. They have songs about doing the Osnabrück-Hamburg run in one day, how to survive a night-run without Dave Dudley on the radio, why fishing is so damn relaxing, and, oh, how to be a cop in the big city:
If, while watching this, you’re in the vicinity of a german who’s a Fischkopp (a fishhead, as those who are from the northern parts of the country are happily calling themselves), you will notice at least a slight humming along, if not outright singing.
This is because this song, „Big City Beat“, is the title song for a TV series portraying the day-to-day encounters of two police officers who patrol the more earthier parts of Hamburg. The tone is down-to-earth, the pacing relaxed, and the protagonists at the same time cosmopolitan and grounded salt-of-the-earth locals.
If you don’t understood the dialogue, here’s the summary: He’s telling her why he’s on this beat now. Because he didn’t play along to racial profiling and abuse of a different fellow officer. And the actor, Jan Fedder is someone you really want to like. Here’s him in a talk show, singing a traditional Hamburg folk song. Yes, this talk show is habitually being taped in an actual bar, and yes, everyone is chugging alcohol.
He’s a bit older these days, and the perfect yokel.
And yes, folkys yokels are the same everywhere. So people make fun of them:
The singer is Stefan Raab,a former butcher you started out as a VJ, who
occasionally regularly made fun of things. And yes, this is the same band as in a few videos back.
Still, Stefan is a special kind of musical genius, who can genre-hop like no other.
(the genre he’s lampooning here is „Volksmusik“. The closest equivalent would be Country, but it most certainly is not that. But that will be another installment of this blog series.)
He habitually reworked Germanys Funniest Home Videos into the summer smash hit of uh.. who cares. But this here highlights very aptly the difficulties everyday germans have when trying to adapt to foreign music.
But the true road to greatness was paved by Stefan Raabs contributions to the Eurovision Song Contest. You might have heard about that, by John Oliver:
Germany used to be represented by things like this:
Things got a teensy bit more tedious in the 90ies:
(The Eurocats still perform regularly on cruise ships)
And the other european nationalities used to send similar candidates. For decades! In the end, fewer and fewer people watched the contest. Stefan Raab thought that someone should do something, so he produced THIS:
Yes, we ran with that, while everyone else was still doing this, this or that. Yes, Eurotrash is a word. Eventually Stefan decided to run himself, so we progressed to…
The finns accepted the challenge and eventually things escalated a bit, and now the Eurovision Song Contest is the camp fest that John Oliver so loved to be confused about:
PS: At some point, we understood how to do Country. Really:
and yes, we brought Country to the European Song Contest:
(thanks to Jan for reminding me of this!)