‘My Life Is Filled With Gratitude’
Roland Kaiser, a legend of the German “Schlager” music scene, was the guest at the seventh “Blue Sofa” event in Gütersloh, which took place at the city’s theater last night. The popular artist read from his autobiography “Sonnenseite” (“Sunny Side”) and spoke about his eventful life in front of the sold-out auditorium. A life full of ups and downs, led by a man who has grown through challenges and remained true to himself and his convictions. The audience thanked him with a huge round of applause.
Roland Kaiser can get up on a stage and sing to inspire audiences. But he can also captivate audiences in another way, by telling stories in his inimitable, sonorous voice. Especially since they are stories from his own life, which he has compiled into a book co-written with journalist Sabine Eichhorst and published by Heyne, and because the life he looks back on in this book is an impressive one. Roland Kaiser is one of the biggest stars of Germany’s “Schlager” pop scene. Last year, he published his autobiography “Sonnenseite” (Sunny Side) – and last night he took a seat on the Blue Sofa, held for the seventh time in the once again sold-out Gütersloh Theater, to present it. The “Blue Sofa Gütersloh” is made possible by Bertelsmann as part of its local cultural sponsorship activities. Karin Schlautmann, Head of Bertelsmann Corporate Communications, who was responsible for the event, also sat in the audience. For nearly an hour and a half, Roland Kaiser spoke at length to Ariane Binder, host of 3sat’s “Kulturzeit,” who was seated next to him on the famous piece of furniture, and read passages from his book, without any airs and graces and without shying away from revealing personal details about himself.
Roland Kaiser’s autobiography gives a frank account of his childhood, which was not easy, but nonetheless happy. He grew up in the 1950s and 1960s with his foster mother in Berlin’s Wedding district and experienced historic moments in the divided city: Willy Brandt’s speech in front of Schöneberg City Hall in 1961, for example, and John F. Kennedy’s visit in 1963, the occasion of his famous “Ich bin ein Berliner” speech. As he relates these and other experiences, it quickly becomes clear that Roland Kaiser, whose real name is Ronald Keiler, likes to think back on his past, and considers it a stroke of luck to have grown up with his foster mother. “I delivered newspapers with my mother at half past four in the morning, that was fun and kept me grounded,” Kaiser told his rapt audience at the Gütersloh Theater. “My life as a whole is full of gratitude,” he continued, “because the fact that I am where I am now is owed to my audiences and the people around me.”
It is this down-to-earthness, this credibility and straightforwardness that made him a successful Schlager singer starting in 1974, a few years after a chance audition at the Hansa Music Studio in Berlin. There, at the age of 21, performing Elvis Presley’s “In the Ghetto” without even practicing beforehand, he had been signed to a three-year record contract straightaway. In 1976, he had his first success with “Verde,” then his big breakthrough with “Santa Maria” in 1980. Hit after hit followed, along with appearances on stage and on television, prizes, and awards. Roland Kaiser has sold some 90 million records to date, many of which were released by the former BMG, and has notched up close to five decades of stage experience. Today, however, he says he no longer rushes from one appointment to the next, as he used to, sometimes even using a helicopter. “I used to be a guest on a stage. Today, I only have my own stage during a concert evening,” he explained at the Gütersloh Theater – and he meant this in a purely factual way, without a hint of arrogance.