Dave Brubeck, Miles Davis, Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, Bob Dylan, Madonna, the Rolling Stones – concert organizer Fritz Rau brought them all to Germany. The trained lawyer who danced to a different tune has died aged 83.
Concert organizer and music mogul Fritz Rau died aged 83 in Kronberg, near Frankfurt. His family said on Tuesday that Rau had passed away the day before.
Rau was born in 1930 in Pforzheim in southwest Germany. He trained to become a lawyer and briefly worked as one, but his real passion was always music. What’s more, Rau’s love lay in jazz, blues and pop music, meaning he looked abroad to foreign stars when thinking of setting up a serious business as a concert organizer.
He had begun to dabble in the trade even as a student in Heidelberg, bringing some of the biggest names of the 1950s – Miles Davis, Dave Brubeck, Ella Fitzgerald – over to Germany.
Together with his friend Horst Lipmann, Rau set up the “Lippmann and Rau” concert agency, a business that was catapulted to the music scene’s attention with its organization of the American Folk Blues Festival. The festival toured Europe, starting in 1962. Rau and Lippmann had sought out comparatively underground performers like Bukka White, Howlin’ Wolf, Willie Dixon and Sonny Boy Williamson – names they helped establish in Europe.
Over the decades, Rau worked with most of the great names of modern popular music. He brought the Rolling Stones to Germany for their first tour in the country, and set up gigs for Jimi Hendrix, The Doors, Miles Davis, Queen, The Who, Tina Turner, Madonna, Eric Clapton, ABBA, Led Zeppelin, Bob Dylan and many more.
He also dedicated time to promoting and helping German artists like Udo Lindenberg and Peter Maffay. Maffay, a musician with a German “Schlager” – a mixture of soft pop and folk music – background, wrote about Rau for the Frankfurter Rundschau paper when the music mogul turned 80. He recalled one of his biggest chances, when he was allowed to open for the Rolling Stones at Munich’s Olympic Stadium in 1982.
“Our playlist was soft. Much too soft for a hot afternoon, for the blood-alcohol level of the audience,” Maffay wrote. “First there were boos, then coke bottles were flying – then vegetables and eggs. We played on, dodging the missiles to left and right like boxers. Suddenly, a large man bounded onto the stage, stood in front of us, stretched his arms wide and yelled to the crowd: ‘If you’re bombarding them, you’ll have to bombard me too!'”
Rau retired from public life in 2004 and wrote a book on his life with the stars, called “50 Jahre [years] Backstage.”
REST IN PEACE !