Early Years

      It all started on March 24, 1960, when Gabriele Susanne Kerner was born in Hagen, Germany, but lived in Breckerfeld. At age three, this little girl earned the nickname Nena while on a vacation in Spain, as it literally means 'little girl' in Spanish. At five, her family moved to Hagen, where she had been born. Years passed and Nena grew up, with a younger brother and sister, whilst listening to the likes of the Rolling Stones. In 1977, she dropped out of high school and spent a few years training as a goldsmith.

      Her first musical endeavor was in November 1977, when she met guitarist Rainer Kitzmann, who was a part of an unnamed, English project that was searching for a singer. He noticed her dancing style, then decided to ask her to try out for position of singer. The charming girl was quickly adopted by the band and they soon had their first gig in 1978 while still unnamed. The group showed up all wearing stripes, thus they named themselves "The Stripes".  The group released a LP in 1979, four singles, and (very obscure) music video for "Strangers," but never achieved much success, having only a minor hit by the name of "Ecstasy". At the time that the :P was put out, a musical era had began, called "Neue Deutsche Welle", that made the German public more susceptible to German lyrics, thus their failure is a result of their bad-timing of using English lyrics. Because of musical differences, and Kerner's desire to produce a German-language album, they disbanded soon thereafter. Along the way, she'd reportedly played drums in a girl-band, Mausis, for a short period of time.

      While working in an office under Jim Rakete, Nena was picked up by Reinhold Heil and Manne Praeker (Spliff) who saw her potential and decided to record with her. Eventually, this lead to the formation of "Nena" with Rakete as the manager. 

Quick facts:

Name: Gabriele Susanne Kerner
D.O.B.: March 24, 1960
Age: 50
Sign: Aries
P.O.B.: Hagen, Germany
Eyes: Hazel
Hair: Dark brown
Height: 5'6"

  • Is a vegetarian.
  • Drinks "moon-water."
  • Is a mother of four and grandmother of two.
  • Doesn't feel marriage is important - love just is.
  • Has a younger brother and sister.

The Band

      In 1981, a twenty-one year old Nena living in West Berlin with her then-boyfriend, Rolf Brendel, met guitarist Carlo Harges, bassist Jürgen Dehmel, and keyboardist Uwe Fahrenkrog-Petersen. Together, they formed the band "Nena". Just a year later, they released their first single, "Nur geträumt" (Only Dreamed), which was an instant hit in Germany thanks to an appearance on a German television program, 'Musikladen.' The song was also used in the 1983 Film Gib Gas - Ich will Spass, which Nena (Kerner) also acted in.

      Shortly after, their first album "Nena" was released, producing singles "Leuchtturm" and "99 Luftballons." The latter became Nena's most well-known song, placing high in charts all over the world which gave way to international tours. 1984 saw the English translation "99 Red Ballons", which placed number one in the UK charts. Ironically, the original German version was much more well-received in the US, hitting number two. Many consider Nena a one-hit wonder as this was Nena's one and only hit on such a global scale.

      In their home-land of Germany, Nena enjoyed great success, spawning several more hit singles with following albums. However, following Kerner's split with Brendel, they disbanded in 1989. Kerner then went on to pursue a solo career. Many people get confused here, because she was still called 'Nena'.

Solo Act

      Alone, Nena continued musical pursuits, releasing "Wunder gescheh'n" (Wonders transpire) in 1989 to moderate success. Perhaps because of a pregnancy, her next album was one dedicated to children in 1990. The nineties saw many other children albums along with a few pop-rock ones in the mix. Though loved, she slowly faded lower and lower in the charts, becoming completely forgotten by most of the world.

      It wasn't until 2002 that Nena returned to prominence. A 2001 album, Chokmah started the new wave, but it wasn't until the album "Nena Feat. Nena" (a re-recording of her most popular songs for her 20th anniversary of singing) that Nena hit number 2 in the German charts and sparked new interest. The music was redone with Uwe Fahrenkrog-Petersen, who was the keyboardist in the original line-up. A English-German duet with Kim Wilde, "Anyplace, Anywhere, Anytime" ('Irgendwie, Irgendwo, Irgendwann') became the most well-received, doing well in various European countries.

      In 2005, Nena released album "Willst du mit mir gehn" (Do you want to go with me?) which was full of new songs. This album quickly reached platinum status with singles such as "Liebe ist" (Love is) and paved the way for a tour full of sold-out shows. This was followed by the two-disc album called "Cover Me" consisting completely of cover songs; this did moderately well, even holding spot 42 in British charts for the single "She's a Rainbow".

      Most recently, Nena released "Made in Germany" in late 2009, full of more new songs. Now, the fifty-year old is embarking on a international tour for said album, still enjoying great success in Europe.

Personal Life and other Endeavors

      When Nena's not singing, she's certainly got a handful of things to do. Shortly after the split with the band in 1987, Nena began dating Swiss actor Benedict Freitag. Nena gave birth to a baby boy on February 2, 1988, Christopher Daniel, who died only eleven months later. Allegedly, this was due to mistakes make by doctors during the birthing process, which caused the baby to be disabled and forced Nena in cardiac arrest. After this terrible tragedy, Nena gave birth again on April 7, 1990 to twins Larissa Marie and Sakias Manuel. She split with Freitag later, then began a relationship with a music producer and drummer from Stuttgart by the name of Philipp Palm. With him, she had two more children, Samuel Vincent (May 18, 1995), and Simeon Joel (May 22, 1997). On Christmas of 2009, Larissa gave birth to Carla Maria, making a forty-nine year old Nena a first-time grandmother. However, only two days later, Sakias became a father to a little boy named Noah. Reportedly, they all live in the Hamburg area. 

      Nena is very adamant in her love for children and founded a school in 2007 with Philpp Palm, Thomas Simmerl, and Silke Steinfadt following the Sudbury model. It is called the "Neue Schule Hamburg", and is, of course, located in Hamburg. You can look at the website here.

     Musicians normally cross-over into acting and Nena is no exception. Her first appearance was back in 1983 in the movie Gib gas - Ich will Spass! where she plays a lively girl named Tina. In it, a few of Nena's earlier songs are sung. She also acted in Der Unsichtbare , Richy Guitar, and Tagediebe. As well as acting, she's done voice-overs in several movies including Tobias Totz und sein Löwe, Die Abrafaxe - Unter schwarzer Flagge, Das magische Schwert – Die Legende von Camelot, the German dub of Eragon, and Arthur und die Minimoys; the last was alongside Bill Kaulitz of Tokio Hotel's fame, who is quite a fan of Nena.

     With journalist Claudia Thesenfitz, Nena wrote "Willst du mit mir gehn", an autobiographical book that features Nena's views on different aspects of her life and several interviews with her family, friends, and co-workers. It was published in October of 2005 and hit number three on the bestseller list.

      She's also taken part in "Dein Song", which is a television music competition in Germany, where children and teens send in lyrics. The best lyrics are sorted out, then the young lyricists are paired up with a prominent figure in music to turn it into a song. She didn't win.