Singer David Bowie died yesterday at the age of 69, after battling cancer for 18 months, according to a statement released by his family.
Among the outpouring of appreciation for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee, the German Foreign Office tweeted gratitude to Bowie for the role he played in bringing down the Berlin Wall, which divided the country into two separate entities during the Cold War.
— GermanForeignOffice (@GermanyDiplo) January 11, 2016
Bowie lived in Germany throughout the 70s, which inspired the song “Heroes,” that captured the tensions among residents of the divided city. In the midst of the Cold War, Bowie performed at an outdoor concert in Berlin, where thousands of East Berliners heard his performance.
In a 2003 interview, Bowie said the 1987 performance was one he would “never forget.”
It was one of the most emotional performances I’ve ever done. I was in tears. They’d backed up the stage to the wall itself so that the wall was acting as our backdrop. We kind of heard that a few of the East Berliners might actually get the chance to hear the thing, but we didn’t realize in what numbers they would. And there were thousands on the other side that had come close to the wall. So it was like a double concert where the wall was the division. And we would hear them cheering and singing along from the other side. God, even now I get choked up. It was breaking my heart. I’d never done anything like that in my life, and I guess I never will again. When we did “Heroes” it really felt anthemic, almost like a prayer. However well we do it these days, it’s almost like walking through it compared to that night, because it meant so much more.
After the concert, riots broke out on the eastern side of the wall. A week later, Ronald Reagan delivered his famous speech urging that the wall be torn down.
Here’s the full song Bowie felt was a “prayer” when he performed it in Berlin.