Who was/is Peter Rohland ? - CDs, Vinyl LPs, DVD and more

Peter Rohland

"Step towards a new intelligent U-music" (Eckard Holler)

One of the first singers who sang folk songs of very different social and historical origins in the early sixties was Peter Rohland. His repertoire included Yiddish songs and tramp ballads as well as songs based on texts by François Villon and the songs of German democrats from the Vormärz and 1848. Especially with the latter he did pioneering work for numerous artists who included these pieces in their program. Among them singers like Dieter Süverkrüp and Hannes Wader as well as groups like Liederjan, Zupfgeigenhansel or Ougenweide.

Peter Rohland wanted to 'dedust' and 'bluntly' sing the German folk song. In 1966 he said in an interview with the magazine 'Song': "It is time to combine the songs of the revolution of 1848, the workers' struggles and the songs from the concentration camps with the term 'Deutsches Volkslied', in addition to the songs of Schwartenhälsen, the poor Jewish woman and the deserter. We must finally correct this notion. German folk songs have nothing to do with 'folk soul', nor with 'eternal values'. They are simply songs that cover the whole aspect of human life, from the extreme sentimentality to the hard or coarse representation. If, however, the statement occurs in the clichés of the time, it is also superficial and emotional in the melody, then it is about hits or tearjerkers, whether they are called 'Durch's Wiesental gang i jetzt na' or 'Küsse unterm Regenbogen'. Other songs are more precise. They describe an exactly recognizable situation or the course of events. And I'm interested in these songs."

Born in 1933 in Berlin, the year Adolf Hitler seized power, he grew up in Stuttgart and Göppingen and received his first musical impulses - like many other 'Waldeckers' - in the Bündische Jugend. He belonged to the Schwäbische Jungenschaft (Swabian Boys' Association), a boys' association that had been banned by the Nazis as 'cultural Bolshevik'. There and on journeys that took him from Greece to Baghdad in the mid-fifties, he became acquainted with songs of other peoples. After his return, he quickly broke off his law studies and moved to Berlin, where he initially studied musicology, but soon devoted himself only to singing. Peter Rohland made his debut in small artist pubs with his first appearances. His first program in 1962 was called 'Vertäut am Abendstern - Chansons zur Nacht'. In the supplement to the EP published under this title two years later, Rohland wrote: "Let's not forget that we in Germany also have points of contact for an independent chanson art. They lie somewhere between a folksong, a bündisch-vaganteskem song and our native, meanwhile somewhat narrow-chested chanson art. You bards, create lyrics that seem far away! Find her! Sing it!" The song Ich schaukle meine Müdigkeit, which comes from this EP and which he knew from the Bundish song poet Werner Helwig, he interprets here solo as a German chanson and not as a Bundish group song.

In Paris, where he lived for several months in 1962, the idea arose to develop a programme of Yiddish songs. With this program, which premiered in Berlin in March 1963 - with Hanno Botsch on the violin and Gesine Köhler on the vocals - he went on a successful tour through the Federal Republic of Germany, but at first only the small Thorofon label was found to release five songs from the program 'Der Rebbe singt' on one EP. The title Frateg far nacht represented here appeared only two years after Roland's death on the album 'Lieder der Ostjuden I'. Although other performers - such as Belinda and Behrend in 1962 - had already published records with a Jewish programme before Rohland, many music historians regard his work as the decisive contribution of a musician in the Federal Republic of Germany to having broken the silence about the persecution of the Jews.

Together with Schobert Schulz, the later partner of Lothar Lechleiter in the duo Schobert & Black, Peter Rohland recorded the LP 'Landstreicherballaden' at the end of 1964. For this program he used songs he had already sung in the Bündische Jugend. He found others in old craftsmen's songbooks or had learned them from carpenters whom he had met 'rolling around' even in southern Germany. From this program comes the song Wir drei, wir gehen jetzt auf die Walze, which Rohland had already sung in 1958. For the film 'And they had made themselves up' by Karl Mohri, Rohland himself slipped into the role of the 'tramp'.

A good ten years before former Federal President Gustav Heinemann called for German freedom movements to be dealt with at school, Peter Rohland presented his programme '48er Lieder - Lieder Deutscher Demokraten' at the second Waldeck Festival in 1965. Also this program, with which he introduced himself as a political singer, was released as a record only after his death. From it the citizen song and the song of a cosmopolitan night watchman originate. Peter Rohland wrote the music to this text by Franz Dingelstedt.

His last programme - 'Lieder des François Villon' - did not even experience the premiere planned for May 1966 in Cologne. After a brain hemorrhage, Peter Rohland died on April 5. The music to the Villon texts in the translation by Paul Zech was written by - besides Peter Rohland himself - Schobert Schulz and Hanno Botsch. From the 1968 released LP with the Villon songs comes also the robber ballad of Pierre, the red Coquillard.

On the occasion of his 40th anniversary of death, Eckard Holler praised Peter Rohland at the Wilhelm-Zimmermann-Gedenkstätte in Dettingen as an artist who had fundamentally changed the musical scene in Germany, "by inserting a new musical genre between U-music (= Schlager) and E-music (= Klassische Musik), which is neither the one nor the other, but makes a step towards a new intelligent U-music".

The following albums by Peter Rohland have been released on CD: 'Landstreicherballaden & Lieder des François Villon', 'Yiddish Songs - Un as der Rebbe singt', '48er Lieder - Lieder deutscher Demokraten'.


Extract from
Various - songwriter in Germany
Vol.1, For whom we sing (3-CD)

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More information about Peter Rohland on Wikipedia.org

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