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Culture

Happy Birthday, Herbert Grönemeyer!

German rock legend Herbert Grönemeyer celebrates his 50th birthday Wednesday. But music isn't his only passion. Grönemeyer is actively involved in getting poverty and development aid back on the political agenda.

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Herbert Grönemeyer: a man with a mission

Herbert Grönemeyer is celebrating his 50th birthday on Wednesday in a manner true to his character: low-key. No public celebrations, probably just a quiet dinner with friends and family in his adopted home, London.

Grönemeyer is one of Germany's best-known stars. For over 25 years, he has rocked through the German music scene and won't be stepping down anytime soon. He's currently putting together a new album, expected to be released next year.

Grönemeyer's success story began in the early 1980s in his hometown of Bochum. His first two albums were a flop -- the first winning a prize for the ugliest cover of the year. But he finally landed his big breakthrough with the song "Männer" or "Men." For his fans, it became the ultimate cult song.

Men are "super strong" and "can do everything"; they "buy women" yet "secretly cry." Grönemeyer caricatured the male superhero who, when it comes down to it, is still just a human being. The accompanying album stayed in the top 100 of the charts for 79 weeks and became an unprecedented sales success for a German rock singer.

"Mensch" clinched Grönemeyer's comeback

At the end of the 1990s, it became quieter around Grönemeyer for some time, following severe strokes of fate in his personal life. In November 1998, he lost both his brother Wilhelm and his wife Anna to cancer.

Herbert Groenemeyer erhält den Radio-Award für sein Album Mensch

Grönemeyer won the "Eins Live Krone" award for "Mensch"

Grönemeyer disappeared for a while from the public eye. In this time, he wrote the songs for his album "Mensch" or "Human," which sealed his comeback four years later.

"Mensch" became a huge success, selling over three million copies. With its single of the same name, Grönemeyer climbed to the top of the German single charts for the first time.

Singing for Africa

Grönemeyer isn't known just for his music, but also for his political work. He's a person who likes to voice his opinion and is not one to mince words.

The 50-year-old takes a stand on political issues in many of his songs. His lyrics oppose nuclear power and racism, and call for tolerance and peace.

Live 8 Berlin Brandenburger Tor Die Toten Hosen

Grönemeyer was also part of the Live 8 concert in Berlin last year

Grönemeyer is also actively involved in development projects for Africa. Together with fellow German musician Wolfgang Niedecken, he wrote the German song for the first Live Aid concert over 20 years ago.

Today, he's head of the action group "Your Voice Against Poverty," the German branch of Bob Geldof's initiative "Make Poverty History."

The campaign's goal is to make people aware of the poverty issue and exert pressure on government leaders. They are supposed to do more for development aid in order to meet the United Nations' Millennium Goals for battling poverty. For Grönemeyer, this is a question of humanity and solidarity.

"Together, we have the power to change things and the time to act, to wake up, to give the world a new twist is now," Grönemeyer said. "If we don't face up to this task now, we will have to live with the lifelong disgrace of not having done those things which were possible to really defeat poverty, illness, hunger and death. And future generations will measure us by this."

Grönemeyer is supplying the World Cup hymn

His social actions have also made Grönemeyer internationally known. His face was on the front of a special edition of Time last October under the headline "European Heroes 2005." The US magazine paid tribute to 37 people who spoke up for others.

But with the World Cup coming to Germany this year, the Grönemeyer name hasn't gone unnoticed by the FIFA. The soccer association has asked him to write the official hymn for the event.

The piece is already finished and is called "Celebrate the Day." It will be released in several languages and Grönemeyer will sing it personally at the World Cup's official opening in Munich on June 9.

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