Nena turns 55 today! If you were watching MTV in the 80’s and  that doesn’t make you feel old, nothing will.

• Nena, which means “baby” in Spanish, is the nickname of Gabriele Susanne Kerner,  
She was born in the city of Hagen, in what was then the nation of West Germany.

• Before becoming a solo artist, she fronted a band called “The Stripes”
• 99 Luftballons is a parable about the cold war.  It became an instant hit in West Germany.

• After the hit soared the German charts, Nena starred in a film comedy "Gib Gas, ich will Spaß” (english title: “Hanging Out”). It was one of the highest grossing German films of the year.
• Translated roughly into English as 99 Red Balloons, it reached #2 on the US charts and became a heavy rotation stalwart in the early days of MTV.
• During a relationship with the Swiss actor Benedict Freitag, Nena suffered a tragedy when their first child died after 11 months.  She later said this tragedy changed her “outlook on life." The couple went on to have a pair of twins.
• In 1999, Nena belatedly recorded Luftballons in French.
• She is currently living with record producer Philipe Palm and now has four children.
• She has a thriving career as a voice actress, portraying the voices in German versions of animated films.

• She is a coach on the German version of “The Voice."
• An activist for children's issues, she founded an elementary school in Hamburg in 2007 called the "Neue Schule." You can see pictures of the idyllic setting in this article from Der Spiegel.
• Nena’s twins each have their own children today and the Luftballon siren is now a proud grandmother.

So now let's honor an 80's icon, raise a glass and one more time gaze up and watch those red balloons float by.


Richard Rushfield is Editor in Chief of Hitfix