Columns

German Government Praises David Bowie for Helping Bring Down Berlin Wall

Of all the tributes pouring in for legend David Bowie, Germany extended an especially poignant thanks to one of their heroes.

Bowie died Sunday at age 69, apparently of of liver cancer, at his home in Manhattan. A publicist said he died peacefully with family at his side, including his wife of nearly 24 years, Somali supermodel Iman Abdulmajid. “The struggle is real, but so is God,” Iman tweeted Sunday morning.

The German government remembered Bowie not just for his music, but where he played it — specifically an open-air concert at the Berlin Wall in 1987.

The performance included the song “Heroes,” which Bowie later told Performing Songwriter magazine “really felt anthemic, almost like a prayer.”

“It was one of the most emotional performances I’ve ever done. I was in tears,” Bowie recalled. “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. And we would hear them cheering and singing along from the other side. God, even now I get choked up. It was breaking my heart. I’d never done anything like that in my life, and I guess I never will again.”

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said in a statement today that “the world has lost a uniquely talented and ground-breaking artist who made musical history for generations.”

“The David Bowie exhibition was held at the Martin‑Gropius‑Bau in Berlin in 2014. I spoke there about the political dimension of David Bowie’s art. This dimension was exemplified by the years David Bowie spent in Berlin during the 1970s, when he recorded his song ‘Heroes’ in the legendary Hansa Studios, a homage to Berlin at the height of the Cold War and a soundtrack of the divided city,” Steinmeier said.

“David Bowie had something that is also essential for diplomacy, that is, the curiosity to discover the world through the eyes of others; the willingness to free himself from obsolete clichés and prejudices; and the conviction that borders can be overcome – even if this is not immediately apparent, as was certainly the case in the divided city of Berlin during the 1970s,” he added. “Although we have lost David Bowie, his music will live on and continue carrying this message to the world.”

The German Foreign Ministry also tweeted a message of thanks.