If there is one 80s song that changed the course of my life, it is this one.
I was obsessed with 99 Luftballons from the first time I ever heard it, at the tender age of three. I had no way of knowing what the song was about. I did not speak German, nor did anyone play the English re-recording for me. I simply loved the song.
As I grew older, I found myself drawn to German history in particular. I read Anne Frank’s diary and became certain that in a past life, I lived in Nazi Germany, hiding Jews. It’s hard to explain where that instinctive knowledge comes from, but it just rings true, think what you will.
In high school, I switched from French to German for a fun elective, and excelled, scoring higher marks than a girl who’d lived 11 years in Germany. The language rolled easily off my tongue. When in grade 11 we began studying German pop culture, I asked my teacher for the lyrics to 99 Luftballons. I spent an entire night translating them, and found myself blown away. It was brilliant and sad, the tale woven between the synths and drums.
What drew me to a parable about war and misunderstandings borne of a lack of cooperation and trust between the nations of the world, I’m not certain. But it still rings painfully true today, which is why this song is timeless.
Plus, face it: it’s cachy as hell, even if ‘Streichholz und Benzinkannister’ means nothing to you.
Day 134: 99 Luftballons – Nena
Bonus: 2002 re-recording, which rocks a more folk-rock vibe