Which songs became popular only through covers

Schlager story: This is how the success began

In order to define and classify the term “Schlager” or “German Schlager”, we have to turn the “wheel of time” quite a bit: This was created in Austria around 1870, to be precise: in Operetta Vienna and replaced terms such as popular songs or street songs. The change of term marked the realization that music can be marketed - at that time still in the form of sheet music with text. From a musicological point of view, there is no clear definition of Schlager. German-speaking authors see an attempt at a definition as “difficult” to “impossible”. From a purely linguistic point of view, the term is a synonym for the English-language “hit” (strike, impact, hit), originally a piece of music or a song that has had a “sweeping” success or has “hit”. In short: a best seller.

The early German hit already had all the characteristics that still determine a hit today: 1. Sales product, 2. in German and 3. Compression of a musical current of the times in a format that is compatible with its listeners. From then on, the German hit moved through the history of the time. Shaped by different currents, events and strange melodies from overseas. The 1920s, for example, danced and dreamed to American-style music - and with the sound film, performers also became stars for the first time. But this brief bloom came to an abrupt end in National Socialism in 1933, when numerous Jewish interpreters and composers were banned and even kidnapped in the course of the Nazi regime.

Hit abroad

In France and in the French-speaking part of Belgium, hits are not called "chansons", contrary to German usage, but "variétés"; accordingly, the hits in Italian are not called “canzone” but “brani”. This also differentiates the pieces of music known as Schlager in France and Italy. Comparable to the development of German hits, the “variétés” and “brani” can also look back on a very long history. In England the hit is translated as “hit”. Many Germans often assume that the hit song as we know it doesn't exist in Great Britain. English-language music is mostly poppy in nature - or is there also English-language hits? Naturally! Its greatest representative is the British pop singer Engelbert Humperdinck. With the song "A Man Without Love" he reached number 6 on the German hit list in 1968.

In retrospect, can one therefore assume that German hits can answer the question “What came first: German hits or pop music?”? Yes! It was definitely the German hit! Strictly speaking, the term Schlager cannot be assumed to be a “genre”. The musical taste of many Germans has become very differentiated over time. Numerous preferences have been established that we know today as pop, rock, blues, jazz, hip-hop, etc. With these music styles, one speaks of music genres in technical usage. A “best seller” can therefore also be a pop number. And yet: the German hit has prevailed and lived up to its name! It is not only the starting point for marketable popular music in Germany - it has also made two distinctive features its own over the decades: Its melody is very catchy and Schlager is in German!

German Schlager wrote music history

The German hit has seen both good and bad times on its journey through the last few decades. The 50s and 60s were dominated by American music. Inspired by the Beatles, Elvis Presley and the Rolling Stones, Rock’n’Roll came to Germany. Many Germans were able to identify more with the rebellious character of pop music due to the politically very tense times. This meant that German Schlager was pushed back from the German music world for the time being. In the 1970s, however, it experienced a great boom! The reason for this was the increasing spread of televisions. Music programs like the ZDF hit parade were on the rise. Stars from the very beginning included: Jürgen Drews, Peter Maffay and Katja Ebstein.

In the 80s, the German hit had to cope with a bitter rain again. The Neue Deutsche Welle ruled Germany and with it numerous Schlager fans! But in the 90s there was a real hit comeback in the republic due to an increasingly popular retro wave! With the support of Guildo Horn and Dieter Thomas Kuhn, the German hit received significantly more prestige. More and more hits were played on the radio or TV: The "Eurovision Song Contest" known under its current name was once a symbol of the popular format of German hits!

The big breakthrough came at the turn of the millennium! Pop music influenced the hit and thus the "pop hit" was born. The new rhythm did not ignore artists such as Michael Wendler, Helene Fischer and Andrea Berg! Modern beats and catchy melodies differentiate German hits today from other decades. The growing fan base is particularly noteworthy: In the 80s and 90s it was primarily the older audience who identified with Schlager, today it is mainly young people who take up this genre! German hits have become indispensable at numerous events or in discos! While formats like “Heimatmelodie” were laughed at in the past, today we encounter very self-confident fans who enjoy German and catchy music ...

German hits versus English pop

While German Schlager has found its fans primarily with pop hits in recent years, the question arises as to how pop stars managed to assert themselves on the primarily English-speaking music market in the 70s? The solution was as simple as it was ingenious: The German Schlager List in the "Cover Version" section shows selected songs that were very successful both in Germany and in English-speaking countries. In order to make German music more popular again, many pop stars made use of English music. They released popular songs as a German-language cover version. The German hit list also represents stars like Jürgen Drews. Today's “King of Mallorca” sang the long-running hit “Ein Bett im Kornfeld” in 1976. The original comes from the US country duo, the "Bellamy Brothers". The band owed their first great success to the song "Let Your Love Flow".

Singer Juliane Werding also notes the German hit list under the heading "Cover Version". This contributed to the success of the Canadian-American rock group "The Band", whose song "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down" (1969) made it into the "List of the 500 best songs of all time". The German music star achieved his musical breakthrough in the spring of 1972 with the cover version "On the day when Conny Kramer died".

Cover songs are no longer a big deal in the music industry these days. Often they even succeed in being better or more successful than the original. If we are talking about a hit of German-speaking origin, one can now assume that its representatives rarely have to use English music in order to be heard! German hits are on the rise - and they owe that to a very successful music concept!

SchlagerPlanet thinks: Schlager has long been a completely independent music GENRE - regardless of the definition of the term!