Rolf Zuckowski turns 75: Giving children the courage to face life

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Rolf Zuckowski turns 75: Giving children the courage to face life
The musician Rolf Zuckowski celebrates his 75th birthday. © Jonas Walzberg/dpa

Generations of children have grown up with happy songs like “When Summer Comes” and “In the Christmas Bakery”. Its creator, Rolf Zuckowski, feels less carefree in view of the world situation.

Hamburg – “A new spring is always coming”, “And quite doll me”, “The annual clock” or “In the Christmas bakery” – songs that have been loved by young and old for decades in the family circle and at children’s birthday parties, in daycare centers and schools to be sung.

Not to forget the encouraging evergreen “I can do it!”, which has meanwhile been clicked millions of times on YouTube and TikTok. Creator of the catchy melodies and texts is Rolf Zuckowski. With more than 20 million records sold, the Hamburg native, born in 1947 to a seaman and a hairdresser, is one of the most commercially successful artists and producers in Germany.

Children need optimism

Shortly before his 75th birthday on May 12th, his heart is not so light. “When I look out into the world, especially to the east, I’m less carefree than I would like to be,” says the musician in a low voice to the German Press Agency in the Hanseatic city. And continues: “Corona didn’t weigh on me as emotionally as this war situation. Because we don’t know where it will take us and what it will mean for the coexistence of the peoples in Europe.” But he is all the more happy about every opportunity to be able to hold small events with children again. “Because the children need optimism – and I can fill up on optimism at the same time.”

The father of three and grandfather of four has used the pandemic time creatively so far anyway. “I had more leeway to think, which was nice. And for things that were otherwise only marginally possible,” explains the 74-year-old. He started the Instagram and Facebook series “Song Stories from the Attic” and learned to take part in workshops, seminars and church services via Zoom.

“The Bird Wedding” was the beginning

He also worked on his previously planned autobiography, “A Bit of Courage, a Bit of Luck,” which will be published by Hamburg-based publisher Edel Books shortly before his birthday. “It is important to me to be able to tell a large audience about the development and range of my work and creativity,” says the artist, who was awarded the Federal Cross of Merit 1st Class in 2018 and who appeared pleasantly reserved in the interview.

In the book, Zuckowski also reports on his collaboration with the Swiss trio Peter, Sue & Marc and their successes at the Eurovision Song Contest (“Io senza te”) as well as with stars like Nana Mouskouri. But of course, above all, he looks back on what he has done for children, which began in 1977 with the repeatedly performed comedy “Die Vogelhochzeit”.

In 2006, the musician even traveled to Shanghai, where “Rolf’s German-Chinese Bird Wedding” premiered with more than 150 children. Zuckowski developed traffic education projects such as “Rolfs Schulweg-Hitparade” (1979), wrote the hit “Du da im Radio” (1981), designed the concept album “Tabaluga” (1983) for Peter Maffay. His Elb tours in 2000 and 2010 deserve special mention from countless other activities: they allowed the musician (“I can’t be lazy”) to perform with young choir members in many places between the Czech Republic and Cuxhaven.

How does he feel when he thinks back to the generations of children? And his career, which he began in the 1960s as a self-taught singer and guitarist in the school band “the beAthovens”? “First and foremost, it makes me very grateful that you can move a lot with small songs. Ultimately, it is this small form that penetrates so deeply into people because they live with these songs,” Zuckowski replies. “Songs like “I can do it!” Some sing simply to get up again.”

The singer-songwriter, who studied business administration after graduating from high school, adds: “It’s also gratitude that there is music that can do this, it doesn’t come from me. It is – without wanting to lift me up now – something slightly divine. A creative force – and I think that goes beyond the normal human horizon that we have.”

He cannot build a perfect world for the children

As varied as his creations are to this day, the artist has always come down to one thing. “I try to make it clear to children that it’s good to have been born,” says Zuckowski, who has always felt supported by his family. “Because many children can doubt it. Because they were disappointed and hurt or even abused. Or were sick.

But that you don’t lose confidence, you can use music to bring that into them intensively.” Because music strengthens children. “They sing songs, they sing in a community, and they realize that music is like an inner ally,” explains Zuckowski. It also fits that with his foundation “Children need music” he has just had two music projects – “Owl Finds the Beat” and the star musical “The Little Day” – translated into Ukrainian.

But he also restricts: “I can’t build an ideal world for the children. I can only hope that they will always find their self-confidence and courage to live – even if life is harder at times.” dpa