The roots of Udo Lindenberg′s iconic success explored in film | Film | DW | 08.01.2020
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The roots of Udo Lindenberg's iconic success explored in film

The German music star is over 70, but remains the country's king of rock. The film "Lindenberg! Do your thing!" shows how the young Udo did just that — breaking the mold of the music world as he developed his career.

Udo Lindenberg is a legend in Germany. The rocker has been around for so long and has created so many hits. And even though he's already over 70, Udo — as Germans affectionately call him — still looks incredibly cool, with his trademark sunglasses, floppy hat and his brash attitude.

Lindenberg had his breakthrough in 1973 with the album Andrea Doria. He then became the first German rock singer to sign a mega-deal. And in the following years, he wrote music history in West Germany.

Now a new biopic celebrates the legend: Lindenberg! Do your thing! premiered on Tuesday in Hamburg — an obvious location for the event, since the musician has been living in the north German city for ages, even though he was born in the city of Gronau in North Rhine-Westphalia in 1946.  

After the premiere, the rock star was visibly emotional: "I had tears behind my sunglasses," he said. "Tears of sadness, but also of delight and joy."

Watch video 13:00

A biopic on German rock legend Udo Lindenberg

The challenges of singing in German

With Lindenberg! Do your thing!,director Hermine Huntgeburth wonderfully portrays a turbulent era, as well as a man with a dream: The young Udo Lindenberg wanted to sing in German — not in the typical style of Schlager kitsch hits, but rather rock and pop music, with a few jazz notes. But that didn't exist at the time. That's another aspect explored in the film: the struggle with your own language.

The film recalls how, in the 1960s, singers in Germany were all doing Schlager. The young Udo felt that it should be possible to do rock with refined lyrics in German, combining melancholy, rawness, charm and humor. That's exactly what he ended up achieving.

Interpreting Udo instead of copying him

Lead actor Jan Bülow turned out to be a perfect cast for the role. He sings the songs himself in the film, and that works well. The actor admitted that he initially tried to imitate Udo as much as possible, but the director and producers encouraged him "to simply do everything the way I was doing it," Bülow said.       

Filmstill | LINDENBERG! Mach dein Ding (DCM/Letterbox/Gordon Timpen)

Jan Bülow as the young Udo Lindenberg

"Basically we made sure we weren't delivering a copy of Udo, but rather an interpretation of him." Instead of dwelling on the image of Lindenberg that is already well known in Germany, the film aims to show how he became such an iconic personality; how he was simply a person who always did his own thing.

The film ends when Udo Lindenberg achieves his first commercial breakthrough, focusing on the development of a young man, his doubts as a teenager and the awakening of his musical talent.

Yet Lindenberg! Do your thing! also manages through the portrayal of Lindenberg's youth to reveal the origins of later hits, or even why he would become an agent of reconciliation between East and West Germany who would communicate with the GDR's leader, Erich Honecker.

Throughout the years, Udo Lindenberg has always remained true to himself, never forgetting his roots and sticking to "doing his thing" despite external resistance. As the film shows, that turned out to be the key to his success.


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