Berliners Celebrate With Song
TEARING DOWN THE WALL
| WEST BERLIN
`UNCHAIN my heart, set me free!'' sang the gravel-voiced Joe Cocker at a free concert given Sunday in West Berlin. And the crowd of over 25,000 East German rock-and-roll fans roared its approval.
In an age when popular musicians routinely perform for political causes, it may have been easy to dismiss Mr. Cocker's appearance with Nina Haagen and numerous rock bands from West and East Germany as just another rock concert. But to many young East Germans, Cocker symbolizes something else.
In the early 1980s, Cocker was one of the first big-name Western rock stars to perform in East Germany.
Speaking with Western visitors last year, Regina, a mother in her middle 30s living in Leipzig, described Cocker's East German concert as an important moment in her life.
``People of many different ages were there,'' she said, ``and for most it was our first rock concert.''
But the effect of the concert was more symbolic than musical.
``After the concert, I felt angry,'' said Regina, ``I was angry because I hadn't been allowed to hear a rock concert when I was a teenager. I felt as if I had just been robbed of my youth. The government stole 20 years of my life.'' Organizers in West Berlin had planned a concert prior to the opening of the Berlin Wall.
``It was for bands from East and West to play together,'' said Bernd Mehlitz, an official with West Berlin's Office of Cultural Affairs. ``When Joe Cocker heard about what was happening in East Germany, he flew to West Berlin Friday and asked to take part.''
Mr. Cocker was not alone in his reaction. The cellist Mstislav Rostropovich, flew in Saturday morning by private jet from his home in Paris just to play by the wall near Checkpoint Charlie.
``I'm playing in memory of all the people who lost their lives here,'' said Mr. Rostropovich, as he began to play his cello.
The well-known musician played selections of music from Johann Sebastian Bach for the thousands of East Germans streaming through the checkpoint.
When he finished, he told the crowd that he'd played to them from his heart. On Sunday morning, a spontaneously arranged free concert was played by the famous Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. The concert was announced over the radio Saturday, and people from as far away as Dresden in East Germany drove in convoys during the night to attend. No seats or standing places were left in the hall at 11:00 when the orchestra began playing. The audience wept openly as they listened to a Beethoven symphony.
``The orchestra played the best I've ever heard them play,'' said Mr. Mehlitz. ``It was more than just a concert.''