Our Bad Germany Still Looking for Freedom from David Hasselhoff

For years, the world has mocked Germany for its love affair with David Hasselhoff. And, for years, Germans have been hoping that the world would forgive and forget. But now that MTV has invited "the Hoff" to perform in Berlin, just like he did 20 years ago when the Berlin Wall came down, their hopes have been dashed.
Actor and singer David Hasselhoff will perform in Berlin shortly before the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Actor and singer David Hasselhoff will perform in Berlin shortly before the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.


The Germans have some fairly devastating national trauma to deal with: in addition to the obvious, there were several decades of living in a country divided in half, being stuck in the middle of the Cold War, the non-sale of Opel this week, the controversial Wembley goal of the 1966 World Cup. And then, of course, there's David Hasselhoff.

Countless embarrassing conversations have started like this: "Hasselhoff is still a star in your country, isn't he?" It's not meant as a compliment. The cause of all this, of course, is one of Hasselhoff's songs, "I've Been Looking For Freedom," which dominated the charts during the period of German reunification.

In the 20 years since then, Germany has had plenty of pop stars; bands like the trance-dancing trio Scooter and heavy- metal rockers Rammstein are well known in the country. But, outside of Germany, everyone still thinks Hasselhoff is Germany's biggest star. The international success of pop-rockers Tokio Hotel has gone a little way toward improving the situation. But now, thanks to MTV, the legend will live on. On Thursday evening, Hasselhoff will be onstage in Berlin for the Europe Music Awards.

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There's a history to all this: On New Year's Eve 1989, Hasselhoff took to the stage in front of Berlin's Brandenburg Gate to sing his hit "I've Been Looking For Freedom" to an already enthusiastic crowd. Amateur video footage of his performance still makes for some of the most horrid viewing that YouTube has to offer.

Should Hasselhoff take the stage at the music awards with a bit more irony, he might go a long way toward making up for past misdeeds -- such as the jacket bedecked with mini-light bulbs and the piano-keyboard scarf he was wearing in 1989. He might even help change the world's opinion on Germany's well-documented humor deficit.

Still, in light of that ghastly video that did the rounds of YouTube which showed Hasselhoff trying to eat a hamburger in a highly inebriated state, perhaps his honor actually needs defending rather than more mocking. Maybe we should all try and see it from the perspective of "the Hoff." After all, he cannot shoulder all the blame for the destruction of one country's reputation. Who knows, maybe Germany's volatile love for his pop songs ruined his life. If that's the case, it's probably better to talk about collective blame. The punishment will be meted out onstage in Berlin on Thursday evening.

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