Hildegard Knef
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28 December 1925 - 1 February 2002

Hildegard Frieda Albertine Knef was born in Berlin. She was a German actress, singer and writer. She was billed in some English language films as Hildegard(e) Neff. Arguably, her most influential roles included that of Susanne Wallner in Wolfgang Staudte's film 'Die Mörder sind unter uns' ('The murderers are among us'), the first film released after the Second World War in East Germany and produced by the Soviet filmmaking enterprise DEFA-Studio für Spielfilme, as well as her role as Marina in 'Die Sünderin' ('The Sinner') in which she performed the first nude scene in German filmmaking in 1950. The incident in the latter film sparked one of the largest scandals in German filmmaking history and drew the criticism of the Roman catholic church. She was the first and only German to have a successful Broadway show ('Silk Stockings' written by Cole Porter). She was sometimes compared to that other great German actress, Marlene Dietrich, in that they both were, or portrayed as, the liberated, self-confident woman. Hildegard Knef was one of the most important actresses of post-war Germany.

In the 1960s and 1970s she enjoyed much success as a singer of German chansons, which she often co-wrote. The song she is mostly remembered for is 'Für mich soll's rote Rosen regnen' ('It shall rain red roses for me'). She is also known for her version of the song 'Ich hab noch einen Koffer in Berlin' ('I've got a suitcase left in Berlin'), the title of which is still often cited in articles and in common speech throughout Germany.

She has published several books. Her autobiography 'Der geschenkte Gaul - Bericht aus einem Leben' ('The gift horse - report of a life') from 1970 is a candid, but not sensationalist, recount of her life in Germany during and after World War II. It became the best selling German book after World War II. Her second book 'Das Urteil' ('The verdict') from 1975 was a moderate success. It dealt with her struggle with breast cancer.

She was married three times and had a daughter (born in 1968) from her second husband David Cameron Palastanga.

On the web:

- Hildegard's website: http://www.hildegardknef.de

If you like this, you probably like.. / european counterparts:

Juliette Gréco (France)

Hana Hegerova (Czech Republic & Slowakia)

What do we think:

DB: A good friend of ours has had the privilege of having known Knef personally. His stories about his meetings with her are funny and sad at the same time. Funny because Knef wasn't the kind of person to let other people tell her wat to do. Sad because they show a profile of a terribly insecure woman, who considers herself more an actress then a singer. Then again as an actress she is mostly remembered for the riot around 'Der Sünderin', while as a singer she is in the end honoured and respected by young artists with a remix project. Newcomers, don't start with her 1986 farewell concert. She sounds utterly drunk on it, which she probably was. It was the first show of a new '86 tour, and also her last show ever; because of health problems the rest of the tour was cancelled.

PR: A famous singer caled Hildegard Knef 'the best female singer that cannot sing'. And this is probably the best way to describe Knef's singing-style; she speaks, grunts, sighs but cannot actually sing like, for example, Sarah Vaughan or Ella Fitzgerald. But whatever she does, it sounds great and unique. Her somewhat ambivalent relationship with her homecountry, her insecurity, her huge successes and deep emotional and financial problems... it all adds up to the diva that Hildegard was, is and will always be. No Europomusic collection is complete without at least one of Knef's albums. Start with one of the many compilations of her famous songs or, even better, buy 'Ich seh die Welt durch deine Augen'.

Recommended albums:

♪♪♪ - So oder so ist das Leben - 1963

♪♪ - Hildegard Knef - 1964

♪♪♪♪ - Illusionen 10" LP - 1964

♪ - Hildegard Knef spricht und singt Tucholsky - 1965

♪♪♪♪♪ - Ich seh die Welt durch deine Augen - 1966

♪♪♪ - Halt mich fest - 1967

♪♪ - Concert - 1968

♪♪♪♪ - Knef - 1970

♪♪♪♪ - Worum geht’s hier eigentlich? - 1971

♪♪♪ - Und ich dreh’ mich nochmal um - 1972

♪♪ - Ich bin den weiten Weg gegangen - 1974

♪♪♪♪ - Applaus - 1975

♪♪♪♪ - Lausige Zeiten - 1977

♪♪♪ - Concert - 1986

♪♪♪♪ - 17 millimeter - 1999

♪♪♪ - The reform sessions - 2002

♪♪♪♪ - Die Hildegard Knef album-edition 1972-1980 (5cd) - 2009

♪♪♪♪♪ = outstanding album, an absolute must-have
♪♪♪♪ = great album, highly recomended
♪♪♪ = nice album
♪♪ = be careful, requires listening before buying
♪ = best to be avoided


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