Klaus Nomi, “The Cold Song”

Klaus Nomi, “The Cold Song”, 1982, Eberhard Schoener’s Classic Rock Night, Munich

Klaus Nomi sings Henry Purcell’s stange aria “The Cold Song” from the English 1691 Baroque opera “King Arthur”, Act Three, Third Scene

The opera’s composer Purcell died in 1695 from incurable tuberculosis at the age of thirty six. Klaus Nomi died in 1983, shortly after performing this final concert under painful, disease-induced conditions, succumbing alone to complications due to AIDS at the age of thirty nine. Both talented men who died so young.

In 1944 Klaus Sperber was born in the town of Immenstadt, Bavaria, Germany. As a teenager, he discovered his love for opera and also pop music. In the early 1970s, he moved to New York and soon found many friends among the East Village artists there. Around this time, he started using the pseudonym Klaus Nomi, an allusion to the American SciFi magazine “Omni” and an anagram of the Latin word omni(s) meaning “all” or “many”.

Klaus Nomi and his friend, theater actor Joey Arias, climbed the New York art scene; their big break came in 1979 when David Bowie saw their performance at the Mudd Club in New York City’s TriBeCa area. The impressed Bowie hired them as his back-up singers for his December 15, 1979 appearance on the “Saturday Night Live” show. Nomi himself drew influence from Bowie’s plastic fashion that night, commissioning for himself the stiff, plastic tuxedo that would become his hallmark in future performances.

Soon after that appearance, Klaus Nomi shot towards pop stardom. While he was celebrated in art circles in New York, Nomi obtained gold-record status in France and started to appear on pop charts throughout Europe in the early 1980s. His music was a mix of operatic arias and pop tracks. Some of Nomi’s well known songs were works by eclectic musician Kristian Hoffman, while others were bizarre covers of songs such as Chubby Checker’s “Twist,” Lesley Gore’s “You Don’t Own Me” and  “Ding Dong the Witch is Dead” from the movie “The Wizard of Oz”.

At the height of his musical success, Klaus Nomi’s career was cut short when he was diagnosed with AIDS, an illness virtually unheard of in those days. He died, alone at Manhattan’s Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York on August 6th of 1983, two years before public awareness of the spreading of AIDS. One of the first celebrities to die from the then-unknown disease AIDS, Klaus Nomi’s ashes were scattered over New York City.

“What power art thou, who from below / Hast made me rise unwillingly and slow / From beds of everlasting snow? / See’est thou not how stiff and wondrous old, / Far unfit to bear the bitter cold, / I can scarecly move or draw my breath? / Let me, let me freeze again to death.” –

Many thanks to Brightest Young Things.com for all their great articles: https://brightestyoungthings.com/articles/author/gaybrightestyoungthings-com

One thought on “Klaus Nomi, “The Cold Song”

  1. I always felt with him when i heard him or saw him. I don’t remember when, where and how i became aware of him. Thanks.

Leave a Reply