Hits about longing and infidelities are his trademark: Roland Kaiser loves texts that are clearly ambiguous. Now the singer turns 70.
Berlin – Roland Kaiser is half an hour early: he comes to the Berlin offices of his concert agency for an interview in a vest, handkerchief, jeans and sneakers.
At his side: his wife Silvia. Kaiser hugs the employees, greets everyone in a friendly way and puts on his jacket for the photo shoot. That’s how his fans know him: as a gentleman of hits. On Tuesday he will be 70 years old.
Kaiser comes straight from an appointment. They wanted to make a television film about his life. Certainly not a bad idea. He himself speaks of a “diverse and exciting life”.
Grew up in red Wedding
The biological mother, just 16 years old at birth, abandons her baby in front of a nun’s pen and gives it up for adoption. Kaiser grew up with a single cleaning lady in the Wedding district of Berlin. As a teenager, he watches as she suffers a heart attack while hanging out the laundry and later dies.
Growing up in post-war West Berlin has shaped Kaiser, whose real name is Ronald Keiler, to this day. “The SPD has become my political home because it was the political home for everyone in the area where I grew up. The red Wedding was pure SPD.”
After the death of his foster mother, Kaiser dropped out of adult education center and trained as a car salesman. In the evenings he sings in pubs and at weddings. His later producer Thomas Meisel became aware of him in the mid-1970s. The career begins – under a slightly different, but definitely more glamorous stage name.
He still sings “Santa Maria” today
Kaiser celebrated his first chart entry in 1976 with the song “Frei – das sucht Alone”, which is rather unknown today, and which reached number 14. Even the second chart hit, “Sieben Fassers Wein”, remains unforgotten – even if it was actually intended for Rex Gildo.
The West Berliner no longer sings the drinking song (“Seven barrels of wine will not be dangerous to us”) at concerts. But his only number one hit “Santa Maria” to date. Kaiser is not telling the story of how the ballad came about for the first time – like so many things in his long career.
Kaiser and co-writer Norbert Hammerschmidt actually want to sing about Christopher Columbus’ ship of the same name. Too intellectual for producer Meisel: “How do we want to convey emotions when we give history lessons?”. Over a bottle of red wine, the disappointed authors draft a “fun version” with a completely over-the-top text: “At night on your snow-white beaches I held your youth in my hands”.
Clearly ambiguous texts
Meisel is enthusiastic, Kaiser perplexed: the audience obviously loves heartbreak and ambiguity. The “philosopher trapped in the body of a pop singer” (“taz”) takes advantage of this from now on. “I tried to go beyond holding hands in my songs. Relationship is also sexuality. You can also say that if you do it stylishly without becoming vulgar.”
Kaiser’s lyrics deal with seduction (“Joana. Born to give love”), secret affairs (“Sometimes I would like to spell the word “desire” with you one night”) and desire (“Love me one last time . Let me feel you again”). The “Stern” calls him the “soft pornographer of the German Schlager”.
No wonder that women’s hearts fly to him privately. Kaiser stands in front of the altar three times. The first marriage fails after ten years (“I was just too young at the time and couldn’t resist a lot of temptations”), the second after five (“I took every job I could get at the time. It was just too much” ). Kaiser has been married to his current wife Silvia for 26 years: “For me, this is the most important person in my life.”
The woman from Münster stands by the cult singer even in what is probably his most difficult phase. In 2000, doctors diagnosed the then chain smoker with the chronic lung disease COPD, which Kaiser kept secret for a long time. “In retrospect, it would have been intelligent to say so openly to avoid speculation,” says Kaiser today. “I just didn’t want to show my vulnerability.”
At some point it is no longer possible, the musician opens up on stage. A transplant saved his life in 2010. His doctors say they listened to Kaiser songs during the procedure. A few months later something happens that the experts don’t think is possible: Kaiser is back on stage and starts his second career.
In 2014, he also landed a hit with young audiences with Maite Kelly. The duet “Why didn’t you say no” has over 140 million hits on YouTube and is also sung at Ballermann. In any case, the audience at Kaiser’s concerts is a diverse mix: very old seniors meet bowling clubs and high school graduates.
Retirement is not in sight
Kaiser enjoys his second life. In addition to a house in the Sankt Mauritz district of Münster, he is buying an apartment in the capital again. The couple usually spends their holidays on Sylt, where the hobby pilot owns a small plane.
The hit star is not thinking about retirement, on the contrary. This year he is planning summer open air events, seven performances of the legendary “Kaisermania” gigs in Dresden, a new album in September and a big birthday tour starting in autumn.
“It’s not like it stresses me. I enjoy it,” says Kaiser, who does sport with his wife, lives a healthy life and hasn’t smoked for a long time. “As long as I can do it, I’m healthy and the people in the audience are having fun, I’ll keep doing it.”
Kaiser, who still appears elegantly in a three-piece suit at his concerts, takes the 70 with ease. His wife and three children persuaded him to travel. “We go to the mountains, are together and celebrate the day together – and then it’s good.” He no longer has any special wishes in his life. “I’m a happy person.”
In the summer, Roland Kaiser plays 22 open-air concerts (June 10 – August 25) and appears six times at the “Kaisermania” in Dresden (July 29 – 31 and August 4 – 6). On 10/28 starts his birthday tour “Perspectives”. dpa