Which iconic 20th century song was originally sung by Lale Andersen?
This haunting song of a good-time girl waiting for her soldier to return was originally sung by Lale Andersen (1905-1972) who was born in Northern Germany and baptised Elisabeth Carlotta Helena Berta Bunnenberg. Not surprisingly, she was generally known as just Liese-Lotte. Lale Andersen was her stage name.
At the age of only 17 she married the painter Paul Ernst Wilke. After the break-up of their marriage she left her children in the care of her siblings to pursue a stage career in Weimar Republic Berlin, where she met Norbert Schultze whilst performing in cabaret. The lyrics came from a poem by one Hans Leip. In a BBC interview Schultze claimed the original version of the tune came from a toothpaste commercial! It was rapidly translated into many languages, was specially popular with Montgomery's Desert Rats, and in English speaking countries is sometimes spelt "Lili Marlene".
The song was first played on German forces radio in Serbia and rapidly became a favourite, though it was never popular with the Nazi hierarchy and Goebbels actually banned it, whilst endorsing a militarised mutant of it. Although she did make a couple of cameo appearances in propaganda films, Andersen was largely seen as being anti-Nazi, though Schultze did join the Nazis.
In 1961 she represented Germany in the Eurovision song contest, though only coming 13th.
She died of cancer in 1972 and her ashes were scattered on a tiny North Sea island.