"Klaus Renft is the legendary 'Mik Jegger' of the Eastern Bloc."
Klaus Renft in 2003
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeKlaus Renft in 2003 - Credit: Thomas Kraft

The song that drifts down the phone line to Anna as she eases back into sleep is Hilflos, a German cover of the Neil Young classic, Helpless.  

The Klaus Renft Combo was a rock band, formed in Leipzig in 1958. They were tolerated by the East German state until 1975, when they were officially banned. They reunited in 1990.

Founding member (and drinking partner of Anna Funder) Klaus Renft once explained the rebelliousness, and importance, of what he and the band stood for: “We really liked Jailhouse Rock and we wanted to experience that feeling of freedom that you could feel in the music. The drumbeats, all the drum riffs, really sent the mood right up to the ceiling. You know rock 'n' roll isn't a question of lyrics, it's a lifestyle, it's freedom, it's a protest against the powers-that-be.”

If you've never heard a German singing the blues, here's the Klaus Renft Combo's Caesar's Blues.

Anna Funder returns to drinking with Klaus, and hears more about his story on page 185.