Rio Reiser (Ton Steine Scherben) Bookmark and Share


9 January 1950 - 20 August 1996

Rio Reiser (real name: Ralph Christian Möbius) was born in Berlin. While he still went to school, Reiser became singer in his first rock band The Beat Kings. The band had been founded by R.P.S. Lanrue (real name Ralph Peter Steitz). After having quit school, Reiser left his then hometown, as well as The Beat Kings, to follow his two older brothers' call to Berlin in order to compose the music for their common project, the first Beat-Opera, which turned out to be, in the words of Rio, an "absolute flop". Nevertheless Reiser stayed in Berlin where he was later joined by Lanrue.

In 1970 Reiser recorded his first single with the band Ton Steine Scherben. The original name idea was actually 'VEB Ton Steine Scherben', but the 'VEB' was soon dropped. The band soon became very popular with the squatter scene, left-wing student and workers' movement and was invited to numerous political events to provide the soundtrack to demonstrations, parties and rallies across Germany which often inspired the audience to translate the message into action afterwards. Thus, many buildings were seized after the end of a concert, and the band often ended up sitting in some commune discussing the political agenda with their hosts. Ton Steine Scherben were musically very successful and, being one of the first rock bands in Germany which actually wrote and performed German languaged rock songs. Over the years they released many albums but refused to fall for any commercial contracts which to a very financial instable existence.

Reiser was unique among German rock stars of his time in being openly gay, although he didn't come out publicly until the 1977. In that the TSS worked together with the theatregroup Brühwarm. Together they did the projects Mannstoll and Endartet. In this time he also got to know singer Marianne Rosenberg with whom he became close friends. He later wrote a songs for her and sometimes performed during her shows.
In 1985 Reiser and the band finally split, partly due to a feeling that is was time to move on, but to a large extent because of a desastrous financial situation. Reiser had a large debt with the group, but his early solo career went so well that he was free from debt in a short time. His first solo record-album was called 'Rio I' and included the popular song 'König von Deutschland' ('King of Germany'). The album was produced by Anette Humpe. The song has been covered numerous times since. Many of his fans from the Ton Steine Scherben-days thought that he was selling out to main stream, capitalist music business finally, and blamed him for becoming - at least for a period of time - a commercially successful musician. Reiser's sixth and last solo album, which was recorded in 1995, was called 'Himmel und Hölle' ('Heaven and Hell'). After the release of the last album, which was not strongly marketed by his company, even though appraised by the critics, Reiser was preparing new songs which he would have produced independently again. It was not to be. Rio Reiser died on August 20, 1996 from a circulatory collapse after internal bleedings, probably as a result of a hepatitis C infection, at his home in Fresenhagen, where he was buried on his own property. He funeral was attended by a lot of friends and artists amongst whom his long last friend Marianne Rosenberg who sang his song 'Junimond'.

On the web:
- Rio's website: http://www.rioreiser.de
- All the covers of Rio's songs in one website: http://www.riocover.de

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

Jacques Higelin (France)

Raymond van het Groenewoud (Belgium)

What do we think:

DB: Some critics say that Rio Reiser created a new image of a German folk singer; he was even called a "Schlager" artist and a "Volksmusik" musician. In fact he falls perfectly into the German Liedermacher tradition mixed with rock. The same segment his counterpart Udo Lindenberg falls into. But where Udo always looked for the spectacular, Rio kept things small. He is not fully recognized in his own country as a great songwriter. I even got mokked at the big music tradefair in Utrecht by a German tradesman for buying his first two solo albums (Puh..your loss). Although if you look at the covers list, he has been (and still is) covered many many times. Apparently fellow artists do recognize his talent.



♪♪♪♪♪ - Keine Macht für Niemand - 1972

♪♪♪ - Wenn die Nacht am tiefsten... - 1975

♪♪- Mannstoll - TSS & Brühwarm - 1977

♪♪♪ - IV - 1981

♪♪♪♪ - Rio I - 1986

♪♪♪- Blinder Passagier - 1987

♪♪♪- Rio*** - 1990

Durch die Wand - 1991

Himmel und Hölle - 1996)

Further listening: 1973: Herr Freßsack und die Bremer Stadtmusikanten;  
1976: Teufel hast du Wind; 1976: Paranoia; 1979: Entartet – TSS & Brühwarm;
1993: Über Alles

♪♪♪♪♪ = 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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