Klaus Nomi

Klaus Nomi

Nomi performing in 1977
Background information
Birth name Klaus Sperber
Born (1944-01-24)January 24, 1944
Immenstadt, Bavaria, Germany
Died August 6, 1983(1983-08-06) (aged 39)
New York City, New York, United States
Genres New wave, synthpop, opera, experimental, baroque, disco
Occupation(s) singer-songwriter, actor
Years active 1977–1983
Labels RCA
Associated acts David Bowie, Joey Arias, Man Parrish, Kristian Hoffman
Website http://www.thenomisong.com

Klaus Sperber (January 24, 1944 – August 6, 1983), better known as Klaus Nomi, was a German countertenor noted for his wide vocal range and an unusual, otherworldly stage persona.

Nomi was known for his bizarrely visionary theatrical live performances, heavy make-up, unusual costumes, and a highly stylized signature hairdo which flaunted a receding hairline. His songs were equally unusual, ranging from synthesizer-laden interpretations of classical opera to covers of 1960s pop standards like Chubby Checker's "The Twist" and Lou Christie's "Lightnin' Strikes". He is remembered in the United States as one of David Bowie's backup singers for a 1979 performance on Saturday Night Live.[1]

Nomi died in 1983 at the age of 39 as a result of complications from AIDS.[2]

Early life

Klaus Nomi was born Klaus Sperber in Immenstadt, Bavaria, Germany on January 24, 1944. In the 1960s, he worked as an usher at the Deutsche Oper in West Berlin where he sang for the other ushers and maintenance crew on stage in front of the fire curtain after performances. Around that time he also sang opera arias at the Berlin gay discothèque Kleist Casino.

Nomi moved to New York City in 1972.[3][4] He began his involvement with the art scene based in the East Village. According to a documentary film made by Andrew Horn, Nomi took singing lessons and supported himself working as a pastry chef.


In 1972, Nomi appeared in a satirical camp production of Richard Wagner's Das Rheingold at Charles Ludlam's Ridiculous Theater Company as the Rheinmaidens and the Wood Bird.[5][6]

Nomi came to the attention of New York City's art scene in 1978 with his performance in "New Wave Vaudeville", a four-night event MC'd by artist David McDermott. Dressed in a skin-tight spacesuit with clear plastic cape, Nomi sang the aria Mon cœur s'ouvre à ta voix ("My heart opens to your voice") from Camille Saint-Saëns' 1877 opera Samson et Dalila. The performance ended with a chaotic crash of strobe lights, smoke bombs, and loud electronic sound effects as Nomi backed away into the smoke. Joey Arias recalled: "I still get goose pimples when I think about it... It was like he was from a different planet and his parents were calling him home. When the smoke cleared, he was gone." The reaction was so overwhelmingly positive that he was invited to perform at clubs all over New York City.[7]

At the New Wave Vaudeville show Klaus Nomi met Kristian Hoffman, songwriter for the Mumps. Hoffman was a performer and MC in the second incarnation of New Wave Vaudeville and a close friend of Susan Hannaford and Tom Scully, who produced the show, and Ann Magnuson, who directed it.

Anya Phillips, then manager of James Chance and the Contortions, suggested Nomi and Hoffman form a band. Hoffman became Nomi's de facto musical director, assembling a band that included Page Wood from another New Wave vaudeville act, Come On, and Joe Katz, who was concurrently in The Student Teachers, the Accidents, and The Mumps.

Hoffman helped Nomi choose his pop covers, including the Lou Christie song "Lightnin' Strikes." Hoffman wrote several pop songs with which Nomi is closely identified: "The Nomi Song", "Total Eclipse", "After The Fall", and "Simple Man", the title song of Nomi's second RCA French LP.

This configuration of the Klaus Nomi band performed at Manhattan clubs, including several performances at Max's Kansas City, Danceteria and Hurrah.

Disagreements with the management Nomi engaged led to a dissolution of this band, and Nomi continued without them.

In the late 1970s while performing at Club 57, The Mudd Club, The Pyramid Club, and other venues, Nomi assembled a group of up-and-coming models, singers, artists, and musicians to perform live with him, which at times included Joey Arias, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring, John Sex and Kenny Scharf.[7] He also appeared on Manhattan Cable's TV Party. David Bowie heard about Nomi's performances in New York and soon met him and Joey Arias at the Mudd Club. Bowie hired them as performers and backup singers for his appearance on Saturday Night Live which aired on December 15, 1979. The band performed "TVC 15", "The Man Who Sold the World", and "Boys Keep Swinging". During the performance of "TVC 15", Nomi and Arias dragged around a large prop pink poodle with a television screen in its mouth. Nomi was so impressed with the plastic quasi-tuxedo suit that Bowie wore during "The Man Who Sold the World" that he commissioned one to be made for himself. Nomi can be seen wearing the suit on the cover of his self-titled album, as well as during a number of his music videos. Nomi wore his variant of the outfit, in monochromatic black-and-white with spandex and makeup to match, until the last few months of his life. Klaus Nomi released his second album, Simple Man, in November 1982.

Nomi also collaborated with producer Man Parrish. He appeared on Parrish's album Hip Hop Bee Bop as a backup vocalist on the track "Six Simple Synthesizers."

He played a supporting role as a Nazi official in Anders Grafstrom's 1980 underground film The Long Island Four.[8]

The 1981 rock documentary film, Urgh! A Music War, features Nomi's live performance of Total Eclipse.[7] His performance of Mon cœur s'ouvre à ta voix was used as the music for the closing credits.

666 Fifth Avenue was listed as the contact address in the liner notes of Nomi's 1981 self-titled record.

In the last several months of his life, Nomi changed his focus to operatic pieces; to fit, he adopted a Baroque era operatic outfit complete with full collar as his typical on-stage attire in this time frame. The collar helped cover the outbreaks of Kaposi's sarcoma forming on his neck, one of the numerous AIDS-related diseases Nomi developed toward the end of his life.

Nomi was reported to be gay; before his illness, there was speculation that he was asexual.[9][10][11]

Illness and death

Nomi died on August 6, 1983 at the Sloan Kettering Hospital Center in New York City, one of the first celebrities to die of complications from AIDS.[12] His ashes were scattered over New York City.[13]




  • Encore (Compilation - 1983)
  • The collection (compilation - 1991)


  • In Concert (Recorded 1979 - edited 1986)


Music videos

  • "Simple Man" (directed and edited by John Zieman)
  • "Lightning Strikes"
  • "Nomi Song"
  • "After the Fall"
  • "Falling in Love Again"
  • "The Cold Song" (from Henry Purcell's 1691 opera King Arthur)

Film appearances



  1. AllMusic biography entry for Klaus Nomi
  2. Smith, Rupert (July 1994), "Klaus Nomi", Attitude, London, England, 1 (3).
  3. Gdula, Steven (September 14, 1999), "Eclipsed: The Best of Klaus Nomi (Review)", The Advocate
  4. Smith, Rupert (July 1994), "Klaus Nomi", Attitude, 1 (3)
  5. Hager, Steven (1986), Art After Midnight: The East Village Scene, St. Martin's Press
  6. Kaufman, David (2005), Ridiculous!: The Theatrical Life and Times of Charles Ludlam, Hal Leonard Corporation, p. 263, ISBN 978-1-55783-637-3 (excerpt)
  7. 1 2 3 Hager, Steven (1986), Art After Midnight: The East Village Scene, St. Martin's Press, ISBN 978-0-312-04976-8
  8. Internet Movie Database: The Long Island Four
  9. https://books.google.com/books?id=dGIEAAAAMBAJ&lpg=PA82&dq=%22Klaus%20Nomi%22%20gay&pg=PA82#v=onepage&q=%22Klaus%20Nomi%22%20gay&f=false
  10. https://books.google.com/books?id=2WMEAAAAMBAJ&lpg=PA56&dq=%22Klaus%20Nomi%22%20gay&pg=PA56#v=onepage&q=%22Klaus%20Nomi%22%20gay&f=false
  11. https://books.google.com/books?id=L9Mj7oHEwVoC&lpg=PA620&dq=%22Klaus%20Nomi%22%20gay&pg=PA620#v=onepage&q=%22Klaus%20Nomi%22%20gay&f=false
  12. Kort, Michele (February 15, 2005), "Klaus and effect", The Advocate, retrieved 2007-11-02
  13. "Klaus Nomi at 'Find A Grave'".
  14. Clare, Lenora (2008), "Naked City: Informer (article)", Frontiers (magazine), 27 (02), archived from the original on May 31, 2008
  15. Man Parrish on the Angie Bowie Show, 2014
  16. Diana, Barbara (2008), "Ladies and Gentlemen Ernesto Tomasini (article)", Il Giornale della Musica (magazine) (28 April)
  17. M, G (2011), "OTHON: Digital Angel (article)", African Paper (magazine) (31 August)
  18. Köhnlein, Stephan (October 8, 2001), ""Wir hassen Schlager"" (in German), Rhein-Zeitung
  19. "Rosenstolz - Marc Almond - Nina Hagen - Total Eclipse - swisscharts.com", Hung Medien
  20. Limnander, Armand (2006-08-27), "Alien Status", New York Times
  21. Limnander, Armand (2009-01-26), "Men's Fashion: The Ghost of Klaus Nomi", New York Times
  22. WWD Staff (2009-01-28), "Jean Paul Gaultier Couture Spring 2009", Women's Wear Daily
  23. Reddy, Sameer (2009-01-29). "Klaus! Kylie! Inès! JPG Loves The Eighties". Style.com. Retrieved 2009-02-03.
  24. Hollywoodbowl.com
  25. Theoperaoftimur.com
  26. LA Weekly
  27. LA Weekly
  28. Timurandthedimemuseum.com
  29. Hitsdailydouble.com
  30. Kristianhoffman.com
  31. "Episode 518 - Mike Myers". WTF with Marc Maron. 2014-07-31. Retrieved 2014-07-31.
This article is issued from Wikipedia - version of the 11/21/2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.