The German Foreign Office has memorialised the late music legend David Bowie by thanking him for his role in bringing down the Berlin wall.
Bowie died Monday following an 18-month battle with cancer. The English rock musician famously moved to Berlin in the 1970’s, producing the iconic albums “Low,” “Heroes,” and “Lodger.”
It may seem like an odd accolade for a government to bestow on a rock star, but Bowie’s music from Berlin is entwined with modern German history. Specifically, as the German Foreign Office links to in the above tweet, his hit song “Heroes.”
Journalist James Woodall wrote about Bowie’s connection to Berlin in The Week in 2008, noting, “The famous title track of Heroes says it all: a tender, anthemic single, its lovers stood ‘By the wall/And the guns/Shot above our heads.'”
Woodall also spoke with Tobias Ruther, a German pop journalist who had just written a book about that period titled “Helden: David Bowie und Berlin” — translated, “Heroes: David Bowie and Berlin.”
In 1987, nearly a decade after he left, Bowie returned to West Berlin to give a concert close to the Wall – and spoke German. Riots erupted on the other side. “The demos were really violent,” says Ruther. “And guess what? A week later in Berlin, Ronald Reagan told Gorbachev to ‘Tear down this wall’.”
Ruther says these East Berlin demonstrations were the first in a long line of riots that led to the epoch-making events of November 1989, but stops short of suggesting Bowie had anything to do with the Wall’s collapse.
On the other hand, he was one of the biggest stars on the planet, he spoke a little German and he knew as well as anyone the power of pop. Is it so absurd to conclude that David Bowie, ex-Berliner, agitator of – and loved by – millions, helped blast the Wall apart?
You can watch Bowie performing “Heroes” at the 1987 West Berlin concert below: