If you were asked about Austria’s most famous artist of the 80s, would you think about Johann Hölzl? Chances are good you might indeed. But probably you know him by another name: Falco!
Hölzl was born in 1957 and showed his musical talent at an early age. He got his first piano by the age of four, and by the age of five, the Vienna Music Academy attested him having an absolute pitch. Later, after trying out an apprenticeship for a short time, he served his time in the Austrian army, founded his first band and studied for one semester at the Vienna Conservatory. But he felt he wanted to become a “real musician”, and started playing as a jazz-bassist in Berlin’s various clubs. One New Year’s Day, while watching a ski-jump event, he was impressed with German athlete Falko Weisspflog, and so he decided to call himself Falco from this day on, altering the name to be more international.
Back in Vienna, he builded himself a reputation as an avant-garde artist by playing in various bands and musical theatres for a few years, and in 1981, Falco landed a three-LP-deal with a Vienna-based record label. His first single, Der Kommissar, first became a club-hit, and with the proper release in 1982, the song climbed the charts European-wide up to the top. Even overseas, the single was successful, and in Canada, it even went to gold. Many say that Der Kommissar was the first successful song of a white rapper!
The same year, debut album Einzelhaft was released and sold pretty well. It was followed in 1984 by Junge Roemer. Critics still praise this album as Falco‘s best effort, but the sales figures were quite behind the expectations. After that, Falco decided to leave his producer and worked with a Dutch producer duo on his third album. The production of Falco 3 was heavily influenced by movie “Amadeus” and thus spawned his greatest hit, Rock Me Amadeus. A major success in Europe already, the song reached No 1 in the US Billboard charts and stayed there for 3 weeks, a first for a German-sung single. Shortly after, Rock Me Amadeus also claimed the top-spot in the UK, and Falco 3 also sold very well.
Falco‘s song Jeanny, the third single from the album (after Amadeus and Vienna Calling), led to a controversy in German-speaking Europe. Lots of radio stations boycotted the song for its ambiguous lyrics, but this merely served for the single to become another big hit. It stayed on No 1 for 8 weeks in Germany and became the best-selling single that year with 2.5 millions copies sold.
In 1986, the fourth album, Emotional, followed, containing the sequel to Jeanny, Coming Home. Falco took off on a world tour, leading him as far as Japan. The following years, his health condition worsened, and he stayed out of the public for a while. Nonetheless he released his 5th album Wiener Blut by the end of 1988, but it wasn’t commercially successful outside of Austria. 1990 saw the release of Data De Groove, and in 1992, Nachtflug followed. Both albums were no big hits either. His techno-version of a 1930s children song (Mutter, der Mann mit dem Koks ist da) became a chart hit in 1995, but Falco had already dislocated to the Dominican Republic by then. Hassled by the constant rumours about his condition and his love-live, he wanted to work in peace and quiet on his next album there. A first single was released in Europe, but the slow sales put the album release on a hold.
Only two weeks before his 41st birthday, Falco was killed in a car accident on the Dominican Republic. Suicide rumors made the rounds, fueled by the finding of various drugs and alcohol during the obduction of the body. Just a few weeks after his death, Falco‘s last album, Out Of The Dark, was released, and once again became a big success in Austria and Germany.
A few years ago, a musical based on Falco‘s life was created, and in 2008 – 10 years after his death – a movie about the life and times of Falco will be released. Here are some of his unforgettable songs we will likely be hearing on the soundtrack:
Falco – Der Kommissar (Single Version)
Falco – Rock Me Amadeus (Extended)
Falco – Vienna Calling (Single Version)
Falco – Jeanny, Part 1 (Long Version)
Falco – Coming Home (Jeanny, Part 2)
Falco – Out Of The Dark (Single Version)
Video: Jeanny, Part 1