Tuesday, January 2, 2007

Klaus Nomi

The first post of this Blog is a tribute to a man who's time passed too quickly.

Total Eclipse

You Don't Own Me

Klaus Nomi (January 24, 1944 - August 6, 1983) was a German countertenor noted for remarkable vocal performances and an unusual, elfin stage persona. Nomi is remembered for bizarrely theatrical live performances, heavy make-up, unusual costumes, and a highly stylized signature hairdo which flaunted a receding hairline. His songs were equally unusual, ranging from synthesizer-laden interpretations of classic opera to covers of 1960s pop standards like Chubby Checker's "The Twist" and Lou Christie's "Lightning Strikes".

Personal life
Nomi was born Klaus Sperber in Immenstadt, Germany. His birthday is commonly observed as January 24, 1944, though the director of The Nomi Song stated at the New York City premiere of the documentary that Sperber's exact birthday is unknown.

Nomi moved from Germany to New York City in the mid-1970s. He began his involvement with the art scene based in the East Village. According to Horn's documentary film, Nomi took singing lessons and supported himself working as a pastry chef.

Nomi died on August 6, 1983 in New York City, one of the first celebrities to die of an illness complicated by AIDS.

After a chance meeting in a nightclub, David Bowie hired Nomi and Joey Arias as back-up singers and consultants on costume design for a performance on Saturday Night Live which aired on December 14, 1979.

Nomi also collaborated with producer Man Parrish.

The 1981 rock documentary film, Urgh! A Music War features Nomi's live performance of the above video, Total Eclipse.

Influence and cultural significance
Filmmakers like Andrew Horn and writers like Jim Fouratt consider Nomi an important part of the 1980s East Village scene, which was a hotbed of development for punk rock, music, the visual arts, and the avant-garde. Although Nomi's work was not met with national commercial success at the time, he garnered a cult following, mainly in New York and in France.
Andrew Horn's 2004 feature documentary about Nomi's life The Nomi Song released on Palm Pictures helped spur renewed interest in the singer, including an art exhibit in San Francisco at the New Langton gallery.

Nomi's influence can also be measured by references and homages to him in the work of later artists.

British pop icon Morrissey used the song "Wayward Sisters" as an introduction prior to appearing on stage to begin a concert for his Kill Uncle tour. Morrissey included Nomi's song "Death" in his compilation of influential songs titled "Under the Influence".

Austrian composer Olga Neuwirth wrote a "Hommage à Klaus Nomi" for countertenor and chamber ensemble.

A fictionalised version of Klaus Nomi appears in a two-part episode of animated comedy/adventure series The Venture Bros. In "Showdown at Cremation Creek (Part I)," he appears as one of David Bowie's bodyguard henchmen (alongside an animated Iggy Pop, another Bowie collaborator). "Klaus" attacks his opponents with ultra-high-pitched singing and the over-sized bow tie of his famous costume, spun and ejected as a battering weapon. In "Showdown at Cremation Creek (Part II)," "Klaus" seems to have been killed after betraying Bowie in order to become a henchman of a villain known as The Phantom Limb.

Nomi's flamboyant cover of Lesley Gore's 1964 hit "You Don't Own Me" is sometimes featured on The Rush Limbaugh Show as the "Homosexual Community Update" Updates (Rush Limbaugh) This was done after Gore's original was for a time adopted as the Feminist Update. Nomi does not change the lyrics (e.g. "Don't say I can't go with other boys").

Klaus Nomi 1981
Simple Man 1982
Encore 1983
In Concert 1986

You Don't Own Me / Falling in Love Again (1981)
Nomi Song / Cold Song (1982)
Lightning Strikes / Falling in Love Again (1982)
Simple Man / Death (1982)
Ding Dong / ICUROK (1982)
ICUROK / Ding Dong (Canadian 12")
Za Bak Daz / Silent Night (CD single, 1998)

Urgh! A Music War (1982)

External links
Klaus Nomi Home Page
Cult Cargo Review
The Nomi Song, a documentary feature film devoted to the life of Klaus Nomi
Review of the film on Laura Hird's website
Klaus Nomi 'Keys Of Life' Home Page
Klaus Nomi Za Bakdaz Home Page
Blog entry detailing Nomi's life and Internet resources
Reminiscences of a friend/collaborator of Nomi
Interactive Animation of Nomi's "3 Wishes"
Eternal Alien
Lightning Strikes music video
Falling in Love Again music video
'Za Bakdaz' the Unfinished Opera, 2007 premiere

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