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Berlin pays one more tribute to its hero David Bowie

Elizabeth Grenier (with dpa)
January 15, 2016

Considered one of Berlin's "Heroes," David Bowie is honored at a tribute at the Hansa Studios, where he worked. The music legend will remain a major figure in the city. But what inspired him to come to Germany?

Tribute in Berlin in front of Bowie's former apartment, Copyright: Jörg Carstensen/dpa
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/J. Carstensen

After a week of tributes in front of David Bowie's former apartment in the Berlin district of Schöneberg, fans paid one more tribute to their idol on Friday (15.01.2016), five days after Bowie's death. The memorial ceremony was held at the famous Hansa Studios, which opened its doors to mourners at noon.

Hundreds of fans mourned their idol at the memorial event organized at Hansa Studios, Copyright: Jörg Carstensen/dpa
Hundreds of fans mourned their idol at the memorial event organized at Hansa StudiosImage: picture-alliance/dpa/J. Carstensen

Exactly a week ago, on January 8, fans had celebrated Bowie's newest album in the main hall of the Hansa Studios. "Blackstar" was released on the artist's 69th birthday.

The Hansa Studios is where Bowie recorded his albums "Low" and "Heroes," in collaboration with Brian Eno, in the 70s. "Lodger," the third album of his "Berlin Trilogy," was prepared in Berlin but recorded in Switzerland and New York City.

The studios near Potsdamer Platz were then known as "Hansa by the Wall" because the control room overlooked the Berlin Wall. The lyrics to Bowie's 1977 hit "Heroes" were inspired by a couple kissing by the border dividing East and West Germany: "I can remember, standing by the Wall, and the guns shot above our heads, and we kissed, as though nothing could fall," Bowie sung. In an interview with "Performing Songwriter" in 2003, he revealed that the couple was actually his then-married record producer Tony Visconti and a German girlfriend.

Bringing down the Wall

Referring to this hit, the German Foreign Office paid tribute to the pop icon on Monday on Twitter:

But how did David Bowie contribute to bringing down the Wall?

In 1987, almost a decade after Bowie had left Berlin, he returned to West Berlin for a concert next to the Wall. Around 60,000 fans showed up near the German Reichstag.

In that 2003 interview with "Performing Songwriter," Bowie recalled this as one of his most emotional performances ever:

David Bowie - 1987 Concert in Berlin, Copyright: dpa - Report
David Bowie at his 1987 concert in BerlinImage: picture-alliance/dpa

"I was in tears. They'd backed up the stage to the Wall itself so that the Wall was acting as our backdrop. We kind of heard that a few of the East Berliners might actually get the chance to hear the thing, but we didn't realize in what numbers they would. And there were thousands on the other side that had come close to the wall. So it was like a double concert where the Wall was the division," he said, adding that singing "Heroes" "really felt anthemic, almost like a prayer."

Tobias Rüther, author of the book "Heroes: David Bowie and Berlin," recalls that the riots following that concert were really violent and that a week later in in the city, Ronald Reagan famously told Gorbachev to "Tear down this wall!"

David Bowie and Iggy Pop, Getty Images/Evening Standard
Should the street where David Bowie and Iggy Pop lived in Berlin be renamed?Image: Getty Images/Evening Standard

David Bowie Street?

Fans have initiated several petitions to honor their idol, including renaming the planet Mars after Bowie; getting his face on the £20 note in the UK, having the next star named after the Starman; and another one to get God to say that Bowie isn't dead.

Considering Bowie's impact on Berlin's image and the fact that the the city already has numerous named "Hauptstrasse" (Main Street), the petition calling on officials to rename the street where David Bowie once lived with his fellow musician Iggy Pop isn't that far-fetched.

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