The "beautiful maiden" stuck to him like icing all his life. With her he had his musical breakthrough in 1971. Since then, the nation has been singing along. At least at the beginning of his career, Tony Marshall suffered from his Schlager image, but he loved his fans and later even repeatedly campaigned for the Schlager genre.
The nation's pick-me-up roamed the town halls into old age. After a long illness, he died on Thursday evening surrounded by his family, as a spokeswoman said on Friday.
Songs in eight languages
The entertainer from Baden-Baden actually had a lot more on it than the "beautiful maiden" or popular hits like "Today we hit the drums" - he mastered four other instruments in addition to the piano and violin, sang in eight languages and had a state examination as an opera singer.
But Tony Marshall set the mood for his fans for decades and stayed the way they liked him: long curly brown hair, then with a hat and always in a good mood. For her, he even got used to the "beautiful maiden".
Because it wasn't love at first sight that connected him to the song. When he was supposed to sing the song as a young man in the recording studio, he first had a drink. The text with the whole "Hojahojaho" was just embarrassing for him.
The hope of being thrown out for drunkenness was not fulfilled. Everyone loved it - and Tony Marshall was a star. By his own admission, it didn't bother him that in the course of six decades of stage life and well over 10,000 performances he not only sang in glamorous halls, but also touring around the clubhouses of marksmen, rabbit and pigeon breeders. The main thing was that he had contact with the audience.
A man of cult status
Herbert Anton Hilger, his real name, always wanted to be "someone like you". That was also the name of a biography of the same name that was published years ago. The artist, who trained at the music academies in Freiburg and Karlsruhe, actually wanted to become an opera singer. But then his family would have "starved," as he once said. For this he gained cult status in the hit business.
At an age when others had long since retired, he was a musical tour guide for the ZDF series "Viva la Musica" in Mallorca and New York, he toured Germany with the "stars of folk music" or stood as a Milkman Tevje on stage in the musical "Anatevka". And with the rock singer Anastacia he also sang the "Beautiful Maid" in English. "I'm still full of energy," he once said. "Who should brake me?"
For example health. He had a pacemaker and had suffered from polyneuropathy for years. This sometimes restricted his urge to move and also forced him to cancel performances. In early 2019, he was in a coma for days due to a stroke. Even then, the family feared for his life, but he jumped off the shovel of death once more. In 2021 he survived a corona infection.
He now needed help when walking, most recently he had to have dialysis three times a week - to "Anneliese", as he said with a laugh. But his voice was reliable. "I'm a lucky guy," he said. He gave concerts again, but he stepped much shorter.
In any case, age didn't put any worry lines on his forehead. And death didn't scare him, the atheist he called himself. "My illnesses are not at all, just a deterioration of the body," he said. His album "My Last Dream" was released in 2021.
What he sorely missed was an appreciation for the hit song. What really pleased him was the recognition in his hometown of Baden-Baden. The spa town has named a path after him, christened a rose "Beautiful Maid" and made Tony Marshall an honorary citizen in 2018. The musician was particularly pleased: "This wonderful honor that you have bestowed on me also blows Tony's mind."
Living for the show and family
Tony Marshall loved show business. But even more his family: The father of three children, grandpa and great-grandpa had been married to his childhood sweetheart Gaby for decades: "She is the best thing that has happened to me." His sons Pascal and Marc, the latter also a singer in the duo Marshall and Alexander, sometimes accompanied their father on tours. With his disabled daughter Stella, he was involved in his foundation for people with disabilities.
In July 2021, Tony Marshall opened a small gallery in Gaggenau near Rastatt, full of memories, photos and gold records. "After my death there will probably be a place for my urn here," he said, laughing. "But a flower vase will do, too. Let's just write 'Tony' on it."
He quietly celebrated his 85th birthday at the beginning of February, without hype, without much fanfare. For health reasons, he had not appeared in public for a long time. "The whole family is around me, from my wife to my great-grandchildren," he said about two weeks ago. "I was successful in my job as a singer - and I'm happy."