The Full Wiki

Nico: Map


Wikipedia article:

Map showing all locations mentioned on Wikipedia article:

Nico (born Christa Päffgen, 16 October 1938 – 18 July 1988) was a German singer-songwriter, fashion model, actress, and Warhol Superstar. She is renowned for both her tenure in The Velvet Underground and for her work as a solo artist.While she is most prominently known for her musical work, she also had a small handful of film roles, including a bit part in Federico Fellini's acclaimed 1960 film La Dolce Vita. A close friend and artistic collaborator with Andy Warhol, she also starred in various roles in his experimental art films, most notably in 1966's Chelsea Girls, after which she named her solo debut album. She died in July 1988, as a result of a bicycling accident. She is related to Hermann Päffgen, who founded the Päffgen brewery in 1883 in Cologne.


Early life

Standing at 5 feet, 10 inches tall with porcelain-like skin, Nico rose to prominence as a fashion model in her early teenage years. After leaving school at the age of thirteen, she started selling lingerie and soon was spotted by fashion insiders. A year later, her mother found her work as a model in Berlinmarker.

Her adopted name, Nico, which she went by for most of her life, supposedly was given to her by photographer Herbert Tobias, who was photographing her on a modeling job. He supposedly named her this after his ex-boyfriend, filmmaker Nikos Papatakis. She soon moved to Parismarker and worked for Vogue, Tempo, Vie Nuove, Mascotte Spettacolo, Camera, Elle, and other fashion magazines in the late 1950s. She also claimed to have been briefly hired by Coco Chanel. Though a native German speaker, through her travels Nico became fluent in English, Italian, Spanish, and French.

Before breakthrough

After appearing in several television advertisements, Nico obtained a small role in Alberto Lattuada's film La Tempesta (1958), and then appeared in Rudolph Maté's For the First Time with Mario Lanza later that year.

In 1959, she was invited to the set of Federico Fellini's La Dolce Vita and attracted the attention of the acclaimed director, who gave her a minor role in the film. By this time, she had moved to New Yorkmarker to take acting classes under the guidance of Lee Strasberg.
After splitting her time between New Yorkmarker and Parismarker, she landed the lead role in Jacques Poitrenaud's Strip-Tease (1963). She recorded the title track, which was produced by Serge Gainsbourg but not released until 2001, when it was included on CD as part of the French compilation Le Cinéma de Serge Gainsbourg.

In 1962 Nico gave birth to her son, Ari Boulogne, who was fathered by French actor Alain Delon. Although the child was raised mostly by Delon's parents, Delon always denied his paternity.

Beginning of musical career

In 1965, Nico met The Rolling Stones' guitarist, Brian Jones, and recorded her first single, "I'm Not Sayin'" for Andrew Loog Oldham's Immediate label. Actor Ben Carruthers introduced her to Bob Dylan in Paris that summer. It is said that Dylan wrote the song "I'll Keep It with Mine" for her shortly afterwards.

After being introduced by Bob Dylan, she began working with Andy Warhol and Paul Morrissey on their experimental films, including Chelsea Girls, The Closet, Sunset, and Imitation of Christ.

The Velvet Underground and Nico

After Warhol became manager of The Velvet Underground, he proposed that the group take on Nico as a singer. The group consented with considerable reluctance, for both personal and musical reasons — John Cale of the group has described Nico as "tone deaf"; despite this, he would go on to play a major role in her solo career. The group, including Nico, became the musical accompanists for Warhol's Exploding Plastic Inevitable, a multimedia performance featuring film, music, lights and dancers.

Nico sang lead vocals on three songs ("Femme Fatale", "All Tomorrow's Parties" and "I'll Be Your Mirror") and backing vocals on another ("Sunday Morning") on the band's debut record, The Velvet Underground & Nico. Released in 1967, the album went on to prove influential to many future genres, including punk rock and New Wave.

Nico had a short-lived romantic relationship with the main singer and songwriter, Lou Reed. Around this period she was also romantically involved with prominent musicians including Cale, Jim Morrison of The Doors, Jackson Browne, Brian Jones, Tim Buckley, Bob Dylan and Iggy Pop.

Shortly after the album's ensuing tour, Exploding Plastic Inevitable, drew to a close in early 1967, Nico and The Velvet Underground parted ways. Both Reed and John Cale played significant parts in various aspects of her solo career. Over the course of the next 20 years, she recorded a series of critically acclaimed albums, working with the likes of Brian Eno and Phil Manzanera. Cale was particularly involved in her music, producing four of her albums as well as arranging and playing various instruments on the recordings.

Solo career


Cover of Nico's 1967 solo album, Chelsea Girl.
Immediately following her musical work with The Velvet Underground's debut album, Nico began work as a solo artist. For her debut album, 1967's Chelsea Girl, Nico recorded songs by, among others, Bob Dylan, Tim Hardin, Jackson Browne and Velvet Underground members Lou Reed, John Cale and Sterling Morrison, co-writing with Reed and Cale one song, "It Was a Pleasure Then", an eight-minute piece with guitar and violin solos. The guitar solo and writing of the song Chelsea Girls was also collaborated upon by members of The Velvet Underground.

Chelsea Girl is a traditional chamber-folk album that influenced the style of artists such as Leonard Cohen, with strings and flute arrangements superimposed by its producer. Nico was not satisfied with the finished album and had little say in production matters.

For her LP The Marble Index, released in 1969, Nico herself wrote the lyrics and the bare bones of the music, which mainly consisted of see-sawing harmonium chords. The arrangements were written by John Cale, who fleshed out Nico's songs with an array of folk and classical instruments. Frazier Mohawk produced the album. Nico's harmonium became her signature instrument for the rest of her career. The album combines classical elements with a European folk sound.

Nico playing harmonium, Hyde Park concert 1974


Nico released two more solo albums in the 1970s: Desertshore (1970, co-produced by John Cale and Joe Boyd) and The End (1974, produced by John Cale). Cale played most of the instruments on these records. Nico wrote the music, sang, and played the harmonium. The End also featured Brian Eno on the synthesizer, who also performed on the live album June 1, 1974 with Nico, Cale and Kevin Ayers. She appeared in a special concert at the Rainbow Theatremarker, in London, which also featured Cale, Eno, and Ayers. The album June 1, 1974 was the result of this concert. Nico performed a lengthy, especially morbid version of the Doors' "The End." at this concert, which was the catalyst for her solo effort The End later that year.

On 13 December 1974, Nico was the support act at Tangerine Dream's infamous concert at Reims Cathedralmarker in Reims, Francemarker. The promoter had so greatly oversold the capacity of the venue that members of the audience could not move or reach the outside, eventually resulting in some fans urinating inside the cathedral hall. The Roman Catholic Church denounced these actions, ordered the rededication of the cathedral and banned future performances on church property.

Nico and Island Records allegedly had many disputes during this time, and in 1975 the label dropped her from their roster.


Nico returned to New York in late 1979 where her comeback concert at CBGBmarker in early 1980 was glowingly reviewed in The New York Times. She began playing regularly at the Mudd Clubmarker and other venues with Jim Tisdall accompanying her on harp and Gittler electric guitar, and they went on a sold-out tour of twelve cities in the East and Midwest.

Nico recorded her next studio album, Drama of Exile, in 1981. It was a departure from her earlier work with John Cale and featured a mixture of rock and Middle Eastern arrangements. She recorded her final solo album, Camera Obscura, in 1985, with John Cale back as producer and The Faction (James Young and Graham Dids) an experimental collection that featured Nico's version of the Richard Rodgers/Lorenz Hart song, "My Funny Valentine".

A number of Nico's performances towards the end of her life were recorded and released, including 1982's Heroine, 1986's Behind the Iron Curtain and Live In Tokyo, and her final concert, Fata Morgana, recorded on 6 June 1988, edited extracts of which were also released on Hanging Gardens.

Philippe Garrel films

Between 1970 and 1979, Nico made about seven films with French director Philippe Garrel. She met Garrel in 1969 and contributed the song "The Falconer" to his film, Le Lit de la Vierge. Soon after, she was living with Garrel and became a central figure in his cinematic and personal circles. Nico's first acting appearance with Garrel occurred in his 1972 film, La Cicatrice Intérieure. Nico also supplied the music for this film and collaborated closely with the director. She also appeared in the Garrel films Anathor (1972); the silent Jean Seberg biopic, Les Hautes Solitudes, released in 1974; Un ange passe (1975); Le Berceau de cristal (1976), starring Pierre Clémenti, Nico and Anita Pallenberg; and Voyage au jardin des morts (1978). His 1991 film J'entends Plus la Guitare is dedicated to Nico.

Personal life

Nico's grave in Berlin
Nico was a heroin addict for over 15 years. In the book Songs They Never Play on the Radio, James Young, a member of Nico's band in the 1980s, recalls many examples of Nico's fiendish behaviour due to addiction. But just before her death she had managed to kick the habit and had embarked on a regimen of exercise and healthy eating. Despite her musical talents and singing, she was deaf in one ear, which made it difficult for her to understand what others were saying. She was also said to have been a vegetarian, as well as a self-proclaimed nihilist.

Nico was also well-versed in languages; due to traveling, she spoke four languages (English, French, Italian, Spanish) fluently, in addition to her native German.


On 18 July 1988, while on holiday with her son in Ibizamarker, Spainmarker, Nico had a minor heart attack while riding a bicycle and hit her head as she fell. A passing taxi driver found her unconscious and had difficulty getting her admitted to local hospitals. She was incorrectly diagnosed as suffering from heat-exposure and died the next day. X-rays later revealed a severe cerebral hemorrhage as the cause of death.

Nico was buried in her mother's plot in Grunewald Forestmarker Cemetery in Berlinmarker, Germanymarker. A few friends played a tape of "Mütterlein", a song from Desertshore, at her funeral.


Nico has been an influence on many musicians, namely Siouxsie & the Banshees, Bauhaus, Stevie Nicks, Patti Smith, Morrissey, Björk, Coil, Jocelyn Pook, Fabienne Shine (who covered "All Tomorrow's Parties"), Dead Can Dance as well as numerous contemporary goth bands who have all cited Nico as a major influence.

Late singer-songwriter Elliott Smith also had quoted her as a major inspiration and was said to have listened to The Marble Index for months. Smith also performed covers of some of her songs - most notably "Chelsea Girls" and "These Days", both of which he performed live at Satyricon in Portland, Oregonmarker in October 1999.

Two of her songs, "The Fairest of the Seasons" and "These Days", both written by Jackson Browne and taken from Chelsea Girl, are featured in Wes Anderson's film The Royal Tenenbaums.
Nico, 1974

Shannon Hoon of Blind Melon named his daughter 'Nico Blue' partly after Nico. Blind Melon's album Nico was released after Hoon's death.

Hedwig and the Angry Inch, a movie written by John Cameron Mitchell, mentions Nico as an influential woman artist in its song, "Midnight Radio". Song is written by Stephen Trask.

The Cult recorded the song "Nico", which celebrates the life of the singer, on their 2001 album Beyond Good And Evil.

For her 2002 album, Kissin' Time, Marianne Faithfull recorded "A Song for Nico", cowritten with Dave Stewart.

Nico was portrayed by Christina Fulton in the 1991 biopic The Doors. She was later portrayed by Meredith Ostrom in the 2006 film, Factory Girl, which chronicles the life of fellow "Warhol Superstar", Edie Sedgwick.

Natasha Khan (AKA Bat for Lashes) has quoted Nico as an influence in particular Desertshore. During 2007 she would start concerts with "Le Petit Chevalier" from that record.

Singer-songwriter Patrick Wolf has been highly influenced by Nico, and released cover versions of 'Afraid' and 'Ari's Song' as b-sides on EPs.

Rock band Anberlin named one of their songs after her: "Dance, Dance Christa Päffgen" on their album "Never Take Friendship Personal". The song also makes reference to her death, and her drug use.

Austin based band Shearwater dedicated their album Palo Santo to the memory of Nico. The opening song ("La Dame Et La Licorne") depicts Nico's death at Ibiza, Spain.

Windsor for the Derby, another Austin based band, released an instrumental track in 2000 on their Young God Release "Difference and Repetition." A live versionof the song can be found on a limited edition 7-inch.

Low, an American indie rock group from Duluth, Minnesota, has a song titled "Those Girls (Song For Nico)". It is included on the box set A Lifetime of Temporary Relief: 10 Years of B-Sides and Rarities, released in 2004.

Two Nico tribute concerts took place in Europe in the autumn of 2008 to commemorate the 70th anniversary of Nico's birth and the 20th anniversary of her death. On 11 October 2008, John Cale, James Dean Bradfield (of the Manic Street Preachers), Fyfe Dangerfield of the Guillemots and others appeared on stage at the Royal Festival Hallmarker in London. On 17 October 2008 at the Volksbuehne in Berlin, Nico's ex-boyfriend Lutz Ulbrich presented another tribute concert, which featured Marianne Rosenberg, Soap & Skin, Marianne Enzensberger and James Young, the keyboardist from The Faction, Nico's last band. Nico's son, Ari Boulogne (sometimes called Ari Päffgen), made a brief appearance on stage at the close.


Studio albums

Year Title
1967 The Velvet Underground & Nico
1967 Chelsea Girl
1969 The Marble Index
1970 Desertshore
1973 The End
1981 Drama of Exile (released in two versions)
1985 Camera Obscura

Live albums

Year Title
1974 June 1, 1974
1982 Do or Die: Nico in Europe
1985 Nico Live in Pécs
1986 Live Heroes
1986 Behind the Iron Curtain
1987 Nico in Tokyo
1988 Fata Morgana
1989 Hanging Gardens
1994 Heroine
1997 Chelsea Girl / Live
2003 Femme Fatale: The Aura Anthology (Drama of Exile expanded, plus live disc)
2007 All Tomorrow's Parties (live double album)

Compilation albums

Year Title
1998 Nico: The Classic Years
2002 Innocent & Vain — An Introduction to Nico
2003 Femme Fatale — The Aura Anthology (Re-issue of Drama of Exile with bonus tracks plus Live at Chelsea Town Hall 9.8.85)
2007 The Frozen Borderline - 1968–1970 (Re-issue of The Marble Index and Desertshore with bonus tracks)


Year Title
1965 I'm Not Sayin' / The Last Mile (45 RPM Single)
1981 Saeta / Vegas (45 RPM Single, Flicknife Records FLS 206)


  • Nico: The Life and Lies of an Icon by Richard Witts, (Virgin Books: Londonmarker, 1992).
  • Up-tight: the Velvet Underground Story by Victor Bockris and Gerard Malanga (Omnibus Press: Londonmarker, 1995 reprint).
  • Songs They Never Play On the Radio by James Young, (Bloomsbury Publishing Ltd: Londonmarker, 1992).
  • Nico: Photographies by Antoine Giacomoni, (Dragoon: Parismarker, 2002).
  • Nico: Cible mouvante. Chansons, Poèmes, Journal by Nico, Jacques Pauvert and Ari Boulogne, (Pauvert: Parismarker, 2001).
  • L'amour n'oublie jamais by Ari Boulogne, (Pauvert: Parismarker, 2001).
  • Nico: The End by James Young, 1993.
  • Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk by Legs McNeil and Gilliamn Mccain, (Grove Press: New Yorkmarker, 1996).
  • LÜÜL: Ein Musikerleben zwischen Agitation Free, Ashra, Nico, der Neuen Deutschen Welle und den 17 Hippies by Lutz Ulbrich (Schwarzkopf & Schwarzkopf: Berlinmarker, 2007).

Film and play

  • Nico Icon (1995), documentary directed by Susanne Ofteringer
  • Nico Icon Play by Stella Grundy premièred at Studio Salford on 5 September 2007
  • Nico. Sphinx aus Eis by Werner Fritsch (2005)


  1. Harvard, J., The Velvet Underground and Nico. Continuum International Publishing Group, 2004 ISBN 0826415504, 9780826415509, 152 pages
  2. Cale, John with Victor Bockris: What's Welsh for Zen: The Autobiography of John Cale. Bloomsbury Publishing, Inc.
  3. Biography: Nico (retrieved 5 July 2009).
  4. Rolling Stone: Nico Biography (from the 2004 New Rolling Stone Album Guide). (retrieved 5 July 2009).
  5. Orange Appeal - 25 years of ambient pioneers Tangerine Dream
  6. How the dramatic Nico became a music iconoclast Times Online, 26 September 2008 (retrieved 5 July 2009
  7. IMDB Biography: Nico (I) (retrieved 5 July 2009).
  8. Nico: A Short Biography; Dr. Jochen Prümper (retrieved 5 July 2009).

External links

Embed code:

Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address