"I can do that!": Rolf Zuckowski can’t celebrate light-heartedly

Generations of children have grown up with songs by Rolf Zuckowski. And some parents should be able to sing along to songs like “In der Weihnachtsbäckerei” in their sleep. Now the singer and composer is celebrating his 75th birthday in difficult times.

“A new spring is always coming”, “And I’m very dolled up”, “The annual clock” or “In the Christmas bakery” – songs that have been enthusiastically sung by young and old for decades in the family circle and at children’s birthday parties, in daycare centers and schools . Not to forget the encouraging evergreen “I can do it!”, which has meanwhile been clicked millions of times on YouTube and TikTok.

Creator of the catchy melodies and texts is Rolf Zuckowski. With more than 20 million records sold, the Hamburg native, born in 1947 to a seaman and a hairdresser, is one of the most commercially successful artists and producers in Germany.

His heart is not so light at all around his 75th birthday this Thursday. “When I look out at the world, especially to the East, I’m less carefree than I’d like to be,” says the musician in a low voice. And continues: “Corona didn’t weigh on me as emotionally as this war situation. Because we don’t know where it’s leading us and what it will mean for the coexistence of the peoples in Europe.” But he is all the more happy about every opportunity to be able to do small events with children again. “Because the children need optimism – and I can fill up on optimism at the same time.”

Autobiography published

The father of three and grandfather of four has used the pandemic time creatively so far anyway. “I had more leeway to think, which was nice. And for things that were otherwise only marginally possible,” explains Zuckowski. He started the Instagram and Facebook series “Song Stories from the Attic” and learned to take part in workshops, seminars and church services via Zoom.

How many children have probably grown up with his music?

(Photo: picture-alliance / jazz archive)

He also worked on his previously planned autobiography, “A Bit of Courage, a Bit of Luck,” which was published by Hamburg-based publisher Edel Books shortly before his birthday. “It is important to me to be able to tell a large audience about the development and range of my work and creativity,” says the artist, who was awarded the Federal Cross of Merit 1st Class in 2018 and who appeared pleasantly reserved in the interview.

In the book, Zuckowski also reports on his collaboration with the Swiss trio Peter, Sue & Marc and their successes at the Eurovision Song Contest (“Io senza te”) as well as with stars such as Nana Mouskouri. But of course he primarily reviews his activities for children, which began in 1977 with the repeatedly performed musical comedy “Die Vogelhochzeit”.

“Something Slightly Divine”

In 2006, the musician even traveled to Shanghai, where “Rolf’s German-Chinese Bird Wedding” premiered with more than 150 children. Zuckowski developed traffic education projects such as “Rolfs Schulweg-Hitparade” (1979), wrote the hit “Du da im Radio” (1981), designed the concept album “Tabaluga” (1983) for Peter Maffay. His Elb tours in 2000 and 2010 deserve special mention from countless other activities: They allowed the musician (“I can’t be lazy”) to perform with young choir members in many places between the Czech Republic and Cuxhaven.

How does he feel when he thinks back to the generations of children? And his career, which he began in the 1960s as a self-taught singer and guitarist in the school band “the beAthovens”? “First and foremost, it makes me very grateful that you can move a lot with small songs. Ultimately, it is this small form that penetrates so deeply into people because they live with these songs,” Zuckowski replies. “Songs like ‘I can do it!’ some just sing to get themselves up.”

The singer-songwriter, who studied business administration after graduating from high school, adds: “It’s also gratitude that there is music that can do this, it doesn’t come from me. It’s – without wanting to lift me up now – a bit light Divine. A creative force – and I think that goes beyond the normal human horizon that we have.”

The music as an ally

As varied as his creations are to this day, the artist has always come down to one thing. “I try to make it clear to children that it’s good to have been born,” says Zuckowski, who has always felt supported by his family. “Because many children can doubt it. Because they were disappointed and injured or even abused. Or were ill,” says Zuckowski. “But that you don’t lose confidence, you can bring that into them intensively with music.” Because music strengthens children, he is sure.

“They sing songs, they sing in a community and they realize that music is like an inner ally,” explains Zuckowski. It also fits that with his foundation “Children need music” he has just had two music projects – “Owl Finds the Beat” and the star musical “Der Kleinen Tag” – translated into Ukrainian.

But he also restricts: “I can’t build an ideal world for the children. I can only hope that they will always find their self-confidence and courage to live – even if life is harder at times.”

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