music is his life. The producer and composer Ralph Siegel doesn't let himself be slowed down - not by illness, not by criticism, not by financial setbacks. The 77-year-old sits regularly in his office in Grünwald near Munich. There is a lot to do, two musical premieres are coming up. "Of course I'm really happy about it," he says. Because even if hits determined his career, musicals are the second musical passion of "Mister Grand Prix". Like his wife, who is 38 years his junior, the pieces kept him young and distracted from the pain, he says. Siegel has polyneuropathy.
Gold records on the walls of his office commemorate milestones in Siegel's career. Nicole, Andrea Berg, Udo Jürgens, Katja Ebstein - the list of stars he has worked with is long. A painting by his friend Udo Lindenberg hangs between many photos. And of course there is not only a desk, but also a grand piano in the room.
Greatest success at the Grand Prix
In the hallway, Ralph Siegel is showing pictures of what is probably his greatest success: the only 17-year-old singer Nicole during her winning performance with the song "A little peace" in 1982 at the Eurovision Song Contest - at that time still the Grand Prix Eurovision de la Chanson. Even more than 40 years later, he is visibly happy about it.
After a number of top placements in the 80s, he later experienced flops and received a lot of malice for them. That gnaws at him. "What then often annoyed me very much: If we made third place with Mekado or Sürpriz, for example, then it was said: 'only third'. That was not recognized. I got first place once, second place three times, second place twice third and twice fourth place. I'm proud of that."
He does not want to talk about possible ambitions for further participation in the music competition. "It's a subject I haven't finished with, if I'm being completely honest." And he also summarizes the German preliminary decision for this year's ESC: "There are two or three numbers that are quite good. But I don't want to comment further on that."
At the Grand Prix you have to deliver top quality, but the most important thing is: "You have to sing and play in the hearts of all of Europe. That's the art." Fortunately, he himself grew up polyglot, as he says. That's how he developed a sense of which music, for example, Italians and French people also like to listen to.
Singing in native language
And then he breaks a lance for singing in the mother tongue and demands that radio stations play more German-language music. You have to sing in your mother tongue, otherwise it sounds artificial and credibility is lost. It's a drama, he says, that almost only English-language music is playing on the radio.
Very few German authors and composers could still earn a living with their music today - apart from a few exceptions such as Udo Lindenberg, Herbert Grönemeyer or Sarah Connor. CDs are hardly sold anymore and authors and composers hardly earn anything via streaming services. "We old hands can stand it, it will be difficult for those who started in the last few years." But there are also positive examples like Mark Forster and Max Giesinger, says Siegel.
The public broadcasters should turn more to German cultural assets, whether pop or rock or what is generally called hits. "We need a ZDF hit parade again, instead of the twentieth cooking show or the thirtieth quiz show."
While he is talking, Siegel lights a cigarette. One of his employees brings coffee. He used to employ up to 85 people, today there are still six. You just can't make that much money anymore.
Musicals as a financial debacle
His two musicals "Zeppelin" and "A Bit of Peace - Summer of Love" were initially also financial debacles. The premiere of "Zeppelin" was postponed three times due to the corona pandemic. It was a financial catastrophe. He didn't get any Corona help, Siegel is annoyed. The play was able to start for the first time in 2021, and the third season begins on March 10th.
With "A Little Peace" there were problems with the organizer and ticket sales in Duisburg. Siegel speaks of a "miscarriage". In May there should be a restart in Füssen.
Siegel still wants to fulfill a lifelong dream: that one of his musicals will be played abroad. "I'm not giving up hope and there are interested parties. Amsterdam, London, Singapore or Sydney - these are the dream destinations."