German pop singer Nena and her band by the same name had an international hit with their 1983 antiwar anthem “99 Luftballoons,” which reached No. 1 in West Germany and across Europe and peaked at No. 2 in the US.
• Born Gabriele Susanne Kerner, Nena got her start in music when she was recruited to sing in a German pop group called The Stripes. When the band broke up, their label offered Nena a record contract, and she and her then-boyfriend Rolf Brendel formed Nena.
• Their first release was the 1982 single “Nur geträumt,” which appeared on their self-titled debut LP the following year.
• Nena also included “99 Luftballoons,” a song about balloons triggering a nuclear war. It was inspired by a Rolling Stones concert in West Berlin in 1982, which ended with Mick Jagger releasing a bunch of balloons into the air.
• Nena also recorded an English-language version, “99 Red Balloons,” with lyrics by Irish musician Kevin McAlea. Though the English version reached No. 1 in the UK, the band was dissatisfied with the translation, which they felt changed the meaning of the song.
• “99 Luftballoons” proved popular enough to serve as the title track to a 1984 compilation of Nena’s music released as the band’s first international album. The compilation includes the group’s second English-language song, “Just a Dream,” as well as tracks from Nena and from the group’s second album of new material, ?, which had come out earlier in 1984.
• The band released two more German albums and one more international LP before splitting in 1987. Nena released her first solo album, Wunder gescheh’n, in 1989.
• She has released a steady stream of new albums ever since. After middling chart success in the ’90s, Nena’s albums in the 2000s consistently landed in the German Top 10, including three No. 2 LPs: 2002’s Nena feat. Nena, an album of new versions of her hits; 2005’s Willst du mit mir gehn; and 2012’s Du bist gut.
BORNMarch 24, 1960