15 Of The Greatest And Most Famous German Singers Of All Time

Written by Dan Farrant
Last updated

The history of Germany is famously tumultuous and influential around the globe. These circumstances are the environment in which art tends to thrive — music included. As such, Germany has produced many singers over the decades.

That makes this article of 15 of the greatest and most famous German singers of all time an exciting and diverse list of impressive musical talent. Read on to learn more about them!

1. Dieter Bohlen

Whatever you hear when you think of the word Eurobeat can be attributed to the music from German singer-songwriter Dieter Bohlen. As part of the pop duo Modern Talking, Bohlen created international chart-topping pop hits in the 1980s.

The duo’s studio albums released from 1985 to 2003 were consistently top-three hits, six of which were #1 in GfK Entertainment charts. Their biggest commercial success was with the album Back for Good, which was also popular outside Germany.

Bohlen later enjoyed a solo career for a time as Blue System. Ten years later, he returned to Modern Talking, staying until the duo parted in 2003.

2. Helene Fischer

From the far-flung region of Krasnoyarsk, Russia, Helene Fischer‘s journey from a simple German family to the zenith of the music industry has been nothing less than inspiring since she stepped into the music world in 2005.

Among Fischer’s biggest hits, “Atemlos durch die Nacht” stands tall. Topping Austria’s singles chart and landing at #3 on the German chart, this energetic pop anthem is a favorite of fans. Other hits include “Ich will immer wieder… dieses Fieber spür’n” and “Fehlerfrei.”

Among her numerous accolades, Fischer has been awarded the ECHO award multiple times. She received this prestigious award for Album of the Year in 2013 for Farbenspiel and again in 2018 for Helene Fischer.

3. Nena

Next, we have Gabriele Susanne Kerner, more popularly called Nena. Born in Hagen, in 1960, she is known for her iconic Cold War–era song “99 Luftballons,” released in 1984. She achieved international fame with this tune about the apocalypse.

This song has gone on to be covered by artists from all over the world, as a commemoration of the despair of conflict.

Nena was once known for her high-energy performances, but she has since transitioned to a quieter life as a mother of four. She also co-founded the Neue Schule Hamburg school.

4. Lou Bega

Is your name Monica? Or maybe Jessica? If so, and you were a kid in the 2000s, there is no doubt you remember the one-of-a-kind, one-hit-wonder “Mambo No. 5” by Lou Bega.

Bega was born in Munich, Germany, and began his career as a rapper. He was inspired by Latin music during his stay in Miami and went home to Germany to create his signature song.

This big band song is difficult to understand or define, but nonetheless, it achieved international fame in 1999. Bega attempted to replicate the magic of “Mambo No. 5,” but he has not been as successful.

5. Marlene Dietrich

Born in 1901 in Berlin, Germany, Marie Magdalene “Marlene” Dietrich‘s career spanned from the 1910s to the 1980s, making her one of the most enduring figures in the world of music and cinema.

Dietrich’s music was characterized by its sultry tone, unique vocal style, and emotive delivery. One of her most famous songs, “Lili Marleen,” became an anthem for soldiers during World War II. The haunting melody and poignant lyrics resonated with people across different nations, making it a global hit.

Apart from her music, Dietrich also made a significant impact on the film industry. Her breakthrough role in The Blue Angel (1930) brought her international fame and established her as one of the leading actresses of her time.

6. Klaus Meine

Singer-songwriter Klaus Meine is another representative of Germany’s impressive 1980s dominance of rock, metal, and other forms of music performed in giant arenas to thousands of screaming fans. Meine is the singer, guitarist, and songwriter for the band Scorpions, which was formed in 1965.

Meine goes down in history as the songwriter of the legendary anthem “Wind of Change,” which topped charts worldwide. The song has almost one billion views on YouTube and is considered one of the best-selling singles by a German artist, with sales of over 14 million copies. Meine still tours with Scorpions today.

7. Thomas Anders

If we have Dieter Bohlen, of course, we cannot complete the list without Thomas Anders, the other half of the pop duo Modern Talking.

Anders is a singer, songwriter, producer, composer, and actor from Münstermaifeld. He began his music career as a teenager. Success was mediocre for him as a young artist but got his breakthrough with Modern Talking.

Their debut single, “You’re My Heart, You’re My Soul,” was a hit in many European countries, eventually selling over half a million units. The duo would go on to release several hit albums and songs, separating in 2003.

8. Herbert Grönemeyer

Hailing from Göttingen, Herbert Grönemeyer knows how to make a hit album with his songs on processing topics as varied as loss and politics. He released some of the best-selling German albums of all time, including Mensch in 2002.

An album on loss and loneliness following the death of his wife and older brother, Mensch was a success even before release due to advance orders and was eventually certified Gold 21 times in Germany alone.

Grönemeyer was a former war correspondent, which gave his albums a unique political voice. One of his albums, Luxus, helped him process his feelings about experiencing the fall of the Berlin Wall and the reunification of Germany in 1989.

9. Sandra

Like many of the artists on this list, Sandra dominated the charts in the 1980s, both in Germany and beyond. The singer is considered a pop princess, developing many of her hits in collaboration with her producer-husband. 

The height of her success was in 1985 with the song “(I’ll Never Be) Maria Magdalena,” which was a major hit in Germany as well as other European countries. It is considered Sandra’s signature song.

In 2009, Sandra attempted a comeback with another member of this list, Thomas Anders of Modern Talking. Their collaboration, the song “The Night is Still Young” was moderately successful in their home country. Despite this, Sandra continues to perform internationally.

10. Kim Petras

Like other notable musicians on this list, Kim Petras is a boundary-breaker. She is a singer-songwriter born in Cologne, Germany, and currently releases music in the United States.

Petras started her career in 2008 producing her own music before being signed by Amigo and Republic Records. “I Don’t Want It at All,” her debut single in 2017, gave her the breakthrough she sought. She was soon called a singer who would dominate the charts by the end of the year.

Petras was assigned male at birth and experienced gender reassignment surgery in her teen years. She now tops the charts in America with her catchy and controversial songs about identity, sexuality, and heartbreak.

11. Rob Pilatus

Remembered for controversy as much as music, Rob Pilatus is the German-born dancer, model, and singer in the internationally famous 1990s R&B duo Milli Vanilli. Their famous songs are “Blame It on the Rain” and “Girl You Know It’s True.”

During the 1990 Grammy Awards, Milli Vanilli was scheduled to perform their chart-topping hits, which got nominated for a Grammy that year. However, the duo was revealed to lip-sync their music, with Pilatus serving as the model face of the group.

After this disastrous live performance, Pilatus started to suffer under public scrutiny. He attempted to release other albums featuring his vocals under a new group name. However, these did not sell well. Sadly, the singer passed away at the age of 32 after struggling with substance abuse.

12. Till Lindemann

With his trademark gritty, foreboding vocals, Till Lindemann from Leipzig is well-known internationally as the singer and songwriter for the German metal band Rammstein.

The band’s music is used to this day for hype videos of sports and as a soundtrack to other emotionally charged moments. However, their most famous 2014 song, “Du Hast,” is actually a cheeky spin on German wedding vows. The words du hast is translated to “you have.”

Aside from singing, Lindemann is an accomplished poet, having published two books of poetry. However, he will always be remembered for the Till Hammer — his signature move of bending at the knee, beating his thigh with a fist, and turning his head side to side.

13. Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau

Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, Handel, and Mendelssohn are some of the greatest German composers. Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau is the master of German art song and vocal classical music. He has been called “a born god who has it all.”

Fischer-Dieskau is remembered for his versatility, being able to master many different types of songs from several different centuries. He also performed as an opera singer in a huge variety of complex languages, including French, Russian, Latin, Hungarian, and Hebrew.

Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau is best known for performing Franz Schubert’s “Winterreise,” a famous German art song. This recording is still critically acclaimed more than 50 years after its release.

14. Nico

Christa Päffgen — Nico to her fans — was born in Cologne. She was a muse to many in the rock and alternative music community and collaborated with influential cultural figures like Andy Warhol, who was also the manager of the band she was in.

Nico performed with the Velvet Underground in the mid-1960s. Their album The Velvet Underground and Nico was ranked as the 13th greatest album of all time in a 2003 Rolling Stone list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.

Not only was Nico a celebrated singer, but she was also a songwriter and actress. She appeared in Warhol’s groundbreaking 1960s film Chelsea Girls and La Dolce Vita, a film by the legendary Italian filmmaker Fellini.

15. Klaus Nomi

Known for his elaborate costumes and makeup, Klaus Nomi is one of the most original performers on this list. His appearance was often similar to a mime or clown, always with a signature, extraordinary hairstyle.

He achieved his highest success in the early 1980s and only performed for a short while. However, his unique style made him an unforgettable fixture of German music. He often performed a collision of unexpected genres, like opera and synthesizers.

Nomi’s voice was also one-of-a-kind, a countertenor with a very wide range. A countertenor has a very high voice, almost similar to a female soprano. Another legacy of Nomi is a tragic one: he is one of the first musicians known to die from the AIDS epidemic.

Summing Up Our List Of Famous Singers From Germany

There is so much to discover about these diverse, notable German singers. From rappers to alternative rock, German art song masters, and Europop game-changers, Germany offers an impressive history of exceptional music.

No one does classical music better than Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau. If you’re in the mood for something challenging to define, check out Klaus Nomi or Lou Bega.

If you’re looking for singers who captured a moment in history, Nena and Herbert Grönemeyer are a suitable place to start.

Have we left out a German singer you think should be on this list? Let us know and we’ll add them!

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Dan Farrant, the founder of Hello Music Theory, has been teaching music for over 15 years, helping hundreds of thousands of students unlock the joy of music. He graduated from The Royal Academy of Music in 2012 and then launched Hello Music Theory in 2014. He plays the guitar, piano, bass guitar and double bass and loves teaching music theory.