May 15, 2022

99 Luftballons!

I think when you have the gift to write, record, and produce music it should be filled with lots of wise and meaningful lyrics. My song “BLOOD IS ALWAYS RED!” is an anti-war and anti-discrimination song. On the release day, I shared another antiwar song “What Are Wars There For?” by Udo Lindenberg here on my blog.

I guess I have always been inspired by meaningful lyrics. Not many German-language songs made it to the US charts. "99 Luftballoons", a song by the German band NENA from their 1983 self-titled album though is a world-famous song. An English-language version titled "99 Red Balloons", with lyrics by Kevin McAlea, was also released on the album 99 Luftballons in 1984 after widespread success of the original in Europe and Japan.

The English version is not a direct translation of the German original and contains lyrics with a somewhat different meaning. In the US, the English-language version did not chart, while the German-language recording became Nena's only US hit.

Uwe Fahrenkrog-Petersen is a German keyboard player, producer, and composer and was the keyboardist of the band NENA and co-wrote their world-famous hit "99 Luftballons". Here is the translated lyric of the original German version that I have found on Wikipedia:

99 balloons are mistaken for UFOs, causing a general to send pilots to investigate. Finding nothing but balloons, the pilots put on a large show of firepower. The display of force worries the nations along the borders and the war ministers on each side encourage conflict to grab power for themselves. In the end, a cataclysmic war results from the otherwise harmless flight of balloons and causes devastation on all sides without a victor, as indicated in the denouement of the song: "99 Jahre Krieg ließen keinen Platz für Sieger," which means "99 years of war have left no place for winners."

The anti-war song finishes with the singer walking through the devastated ruins of the world and finding a single balloon. The description of what happens in the final line of the piece is the same in German and English: "Denk' an dich und lass' ihn fliegen," or "I think of you and let it go.” 

Imagine our surprise when my mum and I met Uwe Fahrenkrog-Petersen at the Berlin Airport back in 2006! I knew Uwe because of THIS song but also as a TV judge at the German talent show (Popstars) and other music projects and collaborations. He was as friendly, kind, and charming as we had expected. I wish more talented songwriters would use their talent and write and produce meaningful songs and inspire the younger generation! 

It feels like yesterday, but these two pictures 
were taken in 2006 at Berlin Airport! 

Read the making-of story of "99 Red Balloons" in English / German

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