German singer Gitta Walther is a woman of many names – Gitta MacKay, Jackie Robinson and Simone are just some of the many monikers she’s used in a recording career that spans five decades.
She was born in Annaberg, in Saxony, East Germany. In the early 1960s at the age of 16, Gitta fled to West Germany.
After a brief stint working in her cousin's butcher shop, she took part in a singing contest for the Bayrischer Rundfunk in Munich and won first prize. Werner Müller from the Werner Müller Orchestra spotted her and soon she was singing for him, as well as for the Ambros Seelos Orchestra.
In 1965, she cut her first two singles for the Philips label: the somewhat sentimental Alles gab ich dir and the more upbeat Ich will nicht träumen (Locomotion twist), neither of which set the world on fire.
The following year, Gitta guest starred at a gig by local beat band the Thunderbeats. The two tracks she takes the lead on, Hundert hübsche Männer and Honeyboy (Ich mach mir Sorgen), later found their way onto a live LP by the band.
Gitta’s own recording career continued on Telefunken label with a new look, image and name – Gitta became Simone.
Asked about this change of name, Gitta says, “Like many girls back then, I had almost no input into my material or image. I was given a copy of the record and it had the name Simone on it. When I asked about this, the record company told me that my new haircut looked somewhat French and foreign girls were all the rage in Germany in those days.”
Her first 45 as Simone is arguably her best. The A-side, Er sieht aus wie ein Mann, is a cover of Just like a man, originally recorded by Emma Rede (aka Irish singer Jackie Lee), but it’s the beat-tastic B-side, Gelegenheit macht Diebe, that really brings home the bacon. Sadly it failed to impress record buyers and died upon release.
Her next single, issued in 1967, was the mawkish Ich und meine Schwester, backed with a German version of Italian singer Gigliola Cinquetti’s La rosa nera, Das Glück ist treu.
“I didn't take these records too seriously,” Gitta says. “My main income came from singing with bands. The songs were OK, but I felt I had moved on musically from this neat Schlager sound.”
She returned to form with her final Simone release. Wer weiß die Antwort is a finely tuned cover of Cilla Black’s Where is tomorrow, coupled with another original composition, Es müßte regnen, on the B-side. Gitte was pleased with the choice of material. “At home I was listening to black music from America and the Rolling Stones,” she says. “Of the girls, I loved Lulu and Cilla Black – they were great.”
She had already joined the Cornely Singers when, in 1969, CBS released her last solo effort of the decade under her real name Gitta Walther. But the cheesy Jeder Weg führt zurück zu dir was doomed from the start and the bouncy B-side, Du, had already been released in Germany by Danish pop dolly Dorthe.
In late 1969, the Cornely Singers evolved into the Love Generation, a successful hippie-style vocal group that appeared regularly on television. Whilst working with them, Gitta became an in-demand back-up singer, singing on numerous Munich-produced disco tracks, including records by Donna Summer, Amanda Lear and Roberta Kelly.
She is one of the original voices on Silver Convention’s 1975 hit Fly, robin, fly, but couldn’t join the official line up of the group due to her commitment to the Love Generation.
She also provided the trademark scream on Penny McLean’s 1975 German chart topper Lady Bump, and even had her own disco hit in the US under the name Jackie Robinson.
In the late 1970s and 80s, she was part of the successful German girl group the Hornettes.
Gitta moved back in Annaberg and continued to perform, appearing with the band Blackfingers. She even released an album of German folk songs.
Sadly, Gitta Walther died on 10 October 2014.
With thanks to Jens Keller for contributing this profile and to Gitta MacKay for additional information.