NICO

Standing 5′ 10″, with chiseled features and porcelain skin, Nico rose to prominence as a fashion model as a teenager. After leaving school at the age of thirteen she began selling lingerie and was soon spotted by fashion insiders. A year later, her mother found her work as a model in Berlin. She soon became one of the top fashion models of the period.

Nico was one of the most fascinating and mysterious women of the multimedia revolution of The Sixties, and long after that till the present day. She was born on October 16th, 1938, in Cologne, in Nazi-controlled Germany. At the age of two she was taken to the little town of Spreewald on the outskirts of Berlin where she lived together with her mother and grandfather, a railway man, through the end of World War II. Her father died in a concentration camp.

Legend has it that Nico told Andy: ‘I want to sing’ and he introduced her to his latest protégés, The Velvet Underground, a part of Warhol’s mixed-media Exploding Plastic Inevitable troupe until 1967. At that point Nico gave up modeling and spent a year touring with them. She joined then to sing in long improvisations as well as the classic Lou Reed compositions Femme Fetale, All Tomorrow’s Parties, and I’ll Be Your Mirror. Even before the legendary Banana Album was released she went her own way; the band worried about being eclipsed by her haunting, charismatic presence and forced her out of the line-up. The main reason was trouble between her, Lou and John Cale, jealously in love and hate, something Andy loved to witness.

The tone was set: her deep narcotic monotone voice became one of her trade-marks, as well as her low moans, high cheekbones and heavy make-up, a style resurrected by the goths, who anticipated the ‘Nico From The Grave Look’. With John Cale as her producer she made three albums full of mysteries, loaded with strange sounds and feelings and she started touring in a small scale, mostly in France and Spain, sometimes in the early Seventies in New York’s CBGB’S. Her performances in those times were unforgettable experiences; her singing, her playing on the old Indian pump organ, almost in a mystical intensity, echoing around the mind of the listener

In 1969 she met film director Philippe Garrel in Italy and made ten movies with him over the next five years, shot on location in Iceland, Egypt and Death Valley. Most of these movies were long improvised scenes at the strangest places with a very hazy story, built around the main character.

1976—1979 found Nico more or less down and out in New York, she even had lost her manager and friend Lutz Ulbrich. She moved to London to record the album in 1981, a record with an history of stolen master-tapes, re-recorded versions and most of all an unhappy Nico. But from that time her touring was more regular, mostly with young musicians, who brought a universal mystical oriental sound on stage, sometimes in contradiction with Nico’s cool and static approach, always smoking and drinking, but always very intense and fragile in her performance. During this nowhere really at home. She loved things that were part of that.

On 18 July 1988, she went for a bike-ride on the isle of Ibiza, she was visiting again, a bike rider of a healthy-living woman, almost clean of her narcotic past. people found her unconscious by the side of her bike, and took her to the Cannes Nisto Hospital, where she died at 8 pm of a brain hemorrhage. Not the thing we expected from the woman who always was living in places the sun couldn’t reach, she remained in fact where she was, her whole life a mystery!

Her ashes were buried in Berlin, in a small cemetery in the Grunewald Forest, at the edge of the Wannsee, in to her mother’s grave, Margarete Päffgen (1910-1970) on 16 August 1988, with a few friends playing a song from Desertshore on a cassette recorder.

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