Like most music lovers, I’m a fan of Wolfie – Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theuphilus Mozart, as he was baptized – so my ears always prick up when I hear something about him. (Do ears actually do that?) But it took me a while to warm to a strangely hypnotic song that became a world-wide hit in 1986. “Rock Me Amadeus” was the first German record to top US charts, and was sort of a tribute to Mozart. I guess.
Singer-songwriter Johann Holzel was an Austrian musical prodigy like Mozart, but even though he was determined from a young age to become a music star, things didn’t always go his way. He bounced from one thing to another and even spent some time in the service.
He eventually found himself immersed in the Viennese musical scene in the 1970’s; singing, playing guitar, and rapping, even though it was not common in Europe at the time. Performing as Falco, and sporting a well-dressed and trimmed look that differed from the grungy guys, he managed to land a recording contract and generated a couple of very successful records. But their popularity was pretty much limited to Europe. Like many of his contemporaries he longed to capture a wider audience, and make a splash in the lucrative US market.
That finally occurred when Falco and his production team cobbled together a strange amalgam of a song that they hoped would take advantage of the popularity of the film, Amadeus. It was a good bet. The record shot up the charts world-wide, and the clever video he made was perfect for MTV.
Pretty amazing that it reached #1 when you take into account that it’s mostly in German. Most of the lyrics have to do with proclaiming Mozart a superstar and/or rock star. For specifics, here’s the English version.
Falco never struck gold again, but he did continue to be popular in Europe for quite some time. Ironically, he shared one more characteristic with Mozart — they both died young. Falco was just 40 when died from injuries sustained in an 1998 auto wreck in the Dominican Republic.