Singer and actress Heidi Brühl’s relatively modest chart career belies her popularity in her native Germany. She enjoyed a string of hits between 1959 and 1967, though fans of German girl pop favour her 1969 gogo-tastic English-language recording Berlin.
She was born in Gräfelfing near Munich on 30 January 1942. As a young girl, she showed an aptitude for performing, and took up ballet lessons at the age of five.
Her father, film producer Harald Braun, helped her land a role in the 1955 film Die Mädels von Immenhof, which was a huge box office success, and spawned two sequels, both of which starred Heidi.
With her father’s help, she also landed a recording contract with the Philips label in 1959. Her first single, Chico Chico Charlie, was released in August 1959 and made number five in the German charts. Further cheery hits ensued over the following months, including Wir werden us finden and Mister Love.
Her biggest hit – and only chart topper – came with Wir wollen niemals auseinandergehn, a song she’d performed at the German national final to choose an entry for the 1960 Eurovision song contest. Though she finished second, behind newcomer Wyn Hoop and his Bonne nuit ma chérie, she scored the much bigger hit, enjoying a
seven-week run at number one in the charts.
She finally got to represent Germany at the pan-European popfest three years later, but the disappointing Marcel finished ninth. In the meantime, she’d scored a string of hits, though none had cracked the top ten, and in November 1962, her father had died, leaving her in financial difficulty.
In September 1963, she opened in the musical Annie get your gun, garnering great acclaim in the title role. Musicals were uncommon in Germany at this time and she is often credited for having helped introduce the German public to the genre. She later played the role of Eliza Doolittle in the German version of My fair lady.
She met American B-movie actor Brett Halsey and followed him to Rome, where he was working, and the pair married in December 1964.
In 1966 she enjoyed her first hit since 1963’s Marcel, with Hundert Mann und ein Befehl, a version of the American Staff Sergeant Barry Sadler’s The ballad of the green berets. The song made number eight in April that year and renewed interest in the singer, though the follow up, Weiter dreht sich uns’re Welt, flopped completely.
In 1967, after parting company with her long-term producer Fred Weyrich, she issued Hab keine Angst vor morgen, a version of the US singer Keith’s lively 98.6, as the first single from her new album, Meine Welt. The album featured a number of covers of contemporary songs, though the production was perhaps a little too easy listening to appeal to either her older fans or to attract a younger, new fan base.
Later that year, Mein Weg mit dir, a credible version of the Bee Gees’ Spicks and specks, which hadn’t appeared on the album, gave her her final chart hit, reaching number 33.
In 1968 she issued a German version of Spanish singer Massiel’s Eurovision winner La, la, la and Patty Pravo’s huge Italian hit La bambola.
Further covers followed, including Ich schließe meine Augen (Dusty Springfield’s I close me eyes and count to ten), Bleibe bei mir (Words, by the Bee Gees, again), and a year later, in 1969, Boom bang-a-bang (Lulu’s British Eurovision winner), issued in direct competition with a version by German-based American singer Peggy March. (Only the Scottish singer enjoyed any success with the song.)
That same year she went to London to record what many fans of the girl pop genre class as her finest moment: Berlin. This dance floor favourite is far removed from her German Schlager stylings but was relegated to the B-side of the distinctly average The drifter.
In 1970, she moved from Rome to Los Angeles, and took up a year-long engagement at the Dunes Hotel in Las Vegas. She appeared in an episode of the TV series Columbo and starred alongside Clint Eastwood in the 1975 film The Eiger sanction, as well as recording a few further German singles. She starred in her own German TV special and appeared in two more Immenhof films, and also bared all for Playboy magazine.
In 1977 she moved back to Germany, and in 1981 she tried, unsuccessfully, for a comeback with the single You are a part of my heart.
She died in Munich in 1991, aged 49, during an operation to tackle her breast cancer.
With thanks to Arnold Niederl for additional sound files.