Sunday, November 29, 2009
Klus Nomi One the Best Vocalist
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Birth name Klaus Sperber
Born January 24, 1944
Died August 6, 1983 (aged 39)
New York, NY, U.S.
Genres New Wave, synth pop, experimental, cabaret, disco
Occupations Vocalist, actor, pastry chef
Years active 1977-1983
Labels RCA Records, Heliocentric
Associated acts David Bowie, Joey Arias, Man Parrish, Kristian Hoffman
Klaus Sperber (January 24, 1944 - August 6, 1983), better known as Klaus Nomi, was a German countertenor noted for his wide vocal range and an unusual, otherworldly stage persona.
Nomi was known for his bizarrely theatrical live performances, heavy make-up, unusual costumes, and a highly stylized signature hairdo which flaunted a receding hairline. His songs were equally unusual, ranging from synthesizer-laden interpretations of classical music opera to covers of 1960s pop standards like Chubby Checker's "The Twist" and Lou Christie's "Lightnin' Strikes". He is perhaps best remembered by the general public as being one of David Bowie's backing singers during a 1979 performance on Saturday Night Live.
Nomi was one of the first celebrities to contract AIDS. He died in 1983 at the age of 39 as a result of complications from the disease.
Klaus Nomi was born Klaus Sperber in Immenstadt, Bavaria, Germany on January 24, 1944. In his youth in the 1960s, he worked as an usher at the Deutsche Oper in West Berlin where he would sing on stage in front of the fire curtain after the shows for the other ushers and maintenance crew. Around that time he also sang operatic arias at a Berlin gay discothèque called Kleist Casino.
Nomi moved from Germany to New York City in 1972. He began his involvement with the art scene based in the East Village. According to a documentary film made by Andrew Horn, Nomi took singing lessons and supported himself working as a pastry chef.
Nomi appeared in a satirical camp production of Richard Wagner's Das Rheingold with Charles Ludlam's Ridiculous Theater Company in 1972 as the Rheinmaiden and the Wood Bird.
Nomi first came to the attention of New York City's art scene in 1978 with his performance in "New Wave Vaudeville", a four-night event MC'd by artist David McDermott. Dressed in skin-tight spacesuit with clear plastic cape, Klaus sang the aria Mon cœur s'ouvre à ta voix ("My heart opens to your voice") from Camille Saint-Saëns' 1877 opera Samson et Dalila. The performance ended with a chaotic crash of strobe lights, smoke bombs, and loud electronic sound effects as Nomi backed away into the smoke. Joey Arias recalls, "I still get goose pimples when I think about it... It was like he was from a different planet and his parents were calling him home. When the smoke cleared, he was gone." The reaction was so overwhelmingly positive that he was invited to perform at clubs all over New York City.
It was at the New Wave Vaudeville show that Klaus Nomi met songwriter for the Mumps Kristian Hoffman, who was a performer and an MC in the second incarnation of New Wave Vaudeville, and a close friend of Susan Hannaford and Tom Scully (who produced the show) and Ann Magnuson (who directed it).
Anya Phillips, then manager of James Chance in the Contortions, suggested that Klaus and Kristian form a band. Thus Hoffman became Klaus' de facto musical director, assembling a band which included Page Wood from another New Wave vaudeville act, Come On, and Joe Katz, who was concurrently in The Student Teachers, the Accidents, and The Mumps.
Hoffman helped Klaus choose his pop covers, including the Lou Christie song "Lightning Strikes", and wrote several of the pop songs with which Klaus is most closely identified: "The Nomi Song", "Total Eclipse", "After The Fall", and "Simple Man", which was the title song of Klaus Nomi's second RCA France LP.
This configuration of the Klaus Nomi band performed at clubs all over Manhattan, including several performances at Max's Kansas City, Danceteria and Hurrah.
Disagreements with the management Klaus ultimately engaged led to a dissolution of this particular band, and Klaus continued on without them.
In the late 1970s while performing at Club 57, The Mudd Club, The Pyramid Club, etc. Nomi assembled a group of up-and-coming models, singers, artists, and musicians to perform live with him, which at times included Joey Arias, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring, John Sex and Kenny Scharf. He also appeared on Manhattan Cable's TV Party.
Nomi and David Bowie performing "The Man Who Sold the World", on Saturday Night Live
David Bowie heard about Nomi's performances in New York, and soon after met him and Joey Arias at the Mudd Club. Bowie hired them as performers and back-up singers for his appearance on Saturday Night Live which aired on December 15, 1979. The band performed "TVC 15", "The Man Who Sold the World", and "Boys Keep Swinging". During the performance of "TVC 15", Nomi and Arias dragged around a large prop pink poodle with a television screen in its mouth. Nomi was so impressed with the plastic quasi-tuxedo suit that Bowie wore during "The Man Who Sold the World" that he commissioned one to be made for himself. Nomi can be seen wearing the suit on the cover of his self-titled album, as well as during a number of his music videos. Nomi wore his variant of the outfit, in monochromatic black-and-white with spandex and makeup to match, up until the last few months of his life, when he, now mostly focusing on operatic pieces and increasingly ill with AIDS-related illnesses (including Kaposi's sarcoma), wore a Baroque era operatic outfit complete with full collar.
Nomi also collaborated with producer Man Parrish. He appeared on Parrish's album Hip Hop Bee Bop as backing vocalist on the track "Six Simple Synthesizers."
He played a supporting role as a Nazi official in Anders Grafstrom's 1980 underground film The Long Island Four.
The 1981 rock documentary film, Urgh! A Music War features Nomi's live performance of Total Eclipse.
666 Fifth Avenue was listed as the contact address in the liner notes of Nomi's 1981 self-titled record.
Illness and death
Nomi died early morning on August 6, 1983 at the Sloan Kettering Hospital Center in New York City, one of the first celebrities to die of an illness complicated by AIDS. His ashes were scattered over New York City.
Influence and cultural significance