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Germany to David Bowie: Thank You for Helping to Bring Down the Berlin Wall

Germany thanked David Bowie for the role his 1987 concert played in bringing down the Berlin Wall.

3rd July 1973:  David Bowie performs his final concert as Ziggy Stardust at the Hammersmith Odeon, London. The concert later became known as the Retirement Gig.  (Photo by Express/Express/Getty Images)
3rd July 1973: David Bowie performs his final concert as Ziggy Stardust at the Hammersmith Odeon, London. The concert later became known as the Retirement Gig. (Photo by Express/Express/Getty Images)

Tributes to David Bowie from fans and fellow musicians have been pouring in since the 69-year-old Bowie died after a long battle with cancer Sunday. One came from an unexpected source: the German foreign ministry, which thanked him for playing a role in bringing down the Berlin Wall.

The tweet included a link to video footage of “Heroes,” the song Bowie performed in a 1987 concert in West Berlin, which some believe was one in a series of performances that used music to bridge East and West Berlin, which were divided from 1961 to 1989.

Bowie, who later described the concert as one of the highlights of his career, performed on the West Berlin side of the wall in early June.

He suspected that some East Berliners were listening in from the other side, so before launching into one of his most popular songs, “Heroes,” Bowie said “We send our wishes to all our friends who are on the other side of the wall!”

The invisible crowd in East Berlin burst into cheers as Bowie performed the song, written in West Berlin in 1977 and inspired by a couple he saw kissing near the divisive wall.

“I can remember/Standing by the wall/And the guns shot above our heads/And we kissed, as though nothing could fall,” he sang.

In an interview published by Bill DeMain in his 2004 book In Their Own Words, Bowie said the show “was one of the most emotional performances” of his life.

“We kind of heard that some East Berliners might actually get the chance to hear the thing, but we didn’t realize in what numbers they would,” Bowie told DeMain. “And there were thousands on the other side that had come close to the wall. And we would hear them cheering and singing along from the other side. God, even now I get choked up.”

After he performed “Heroes,” his fans in East Berlin reportedly began shouting “The wall must go!”

The next week, U.S. President Ronald Reagan famously addressed Mikhail Gorbachev, then-leader of the Soviet Union, in a speech in West Berlin. “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall,” he said.

Roughly two years later, it was demolished.

Watch Bowie’s iconic performance of “Heroes” below:

Photo Credit: Express/Express/Getty Images

Siobhán O’Grady is a freelance journalist working across sub-Saharan Africa. She previously worked as a staff writer at Foreign Policy. @siobhan_ogrady

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