skip navigation
Nie Laijing

Nie Laijing

| VIEW ALL

TCM Messageboards
Post your comments here
ADD YOUR COMMENT>

share:

TCM Archive Materials VIEW ALL ARCHIVES (0)

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Though Nico only sang three songs with The Velvet Underground, that trio of performances -- "All Tomorrow's Parties," "I'll Be Your Mirror" and "Femme Fatale" -- became the centerpiece of her legend. The strikingly beautiful former model's entire persona, a Teutonic ice queen with buried reserves of anguish beneath her impenetrable surface, was summed up in those three songs. The even darker undercurrents of the solo albums that followed only filled out that public image set on The Velvet Underground and Nico (1967). Christa Päffgen was born in Nazi Germany just prior to the outbreak of World War II. Her father was conscripted as a soldier, eventually dying in a concentration camp after suffering severe head injuries in battle. Moving with her mother to Berlin after the war's end, she became a teenage salesgirl for a local department store, which then hired her as a model for its in-store fashion shows. There, she was discovered by fashion photographer Herbert Tobias, who according to legend gave her the name Nico in tribute to his former lover, Greek film producer Nikos Papatakis. A supermodel before the term was coined, Nico worked regularly in both print and television advertisements, and soon she...

Though Nico only sang three songs with The Velvet Underground, that trio of performances -- "All Tomorrow's Parties," "I'll Be Your Mirror" and "Femme Fatale" -- became the centerpiece of her legend. The strikingly beautiful former model's entire persona, a Teutonic ice queen with buried reserves of anguish beneath her impenetrable surface, was summed up in those three songs. The even darker undercurrents of the solo albums that followed only filled out that public image set on The Velvet Underground and Nico (1967).

Christa Päffgen was born in Nazi Germany just prior to the outbreak of World War II. Her father was conscripted as a soldier, eventually dying in a concentration camp after suffering severe head injuries in battle. Moving with her mother to Berlin after the war's end, she became a teenage salesgirl for a local department store, which then hired her as a model for its in-store fashion shows. There, she was discovered by fashion photographer Herbert Tobias, who according to legend gave her the name Nico in tribute to his former lover, Greek film producer Nikos Papatakis. A supermodel before the term was coined, Nico worked regularly in both print and television advertisements, and soon she was appearing in small uncredited roles in films like "Tempest" (1958), a Dino De Laurentiis-produced adaptation of Alexander Pushkin's historical novel The Captain's Daughter (1836), and "For the First Time" (1959), a romantic melodrama starring opera icon Mario Lanza. Her first credited role came in Federico Fellini's "La Dolce Vita" (1960), a part the famously improvisational director gave her on the spot while she was visiting the set.

The jet-setting model planned an acting career, even taking lessons with famed acting coach Lee Strasberg, but her only starring role came in the obscure "Sweet Skin" (1963), released in some countries as "Strip-Tease." Nico made her recording debut with that film's Serge Gainsbourg-penned theme song. Her vinyl debut came in 1965, when Brian Jones pressed the Rolling Stones' manager Andrew Loog Oldham to sign the fledgling singer to his new label, Immediate Records: the resulting single, a cover of Canadian folkie Gordon Lightfoot's "I'm Not Sayin'" produced and played on by guitarist Jimmy Page, was not a success. Jones also introduced Nico to American pop artist Andy Warhol, who drew the statuesque beauty into the circle at his studio, The Factory. Nico soon began appearing in films directed by Warhol and Paul Morrissey, most notably "Chelsea Girls" (1966) and "Imitation of Christ" (1967).

Nico also became a fixture in Warhol's multimedia happening The Exploding Plastic Inevitable, where she was put on stage with Warhol's musical protégés The Velvet Underground. At Warhol's direction, she was given co-billing on the band's debut album The Velvet Underground and Nico, despite appearing on fewer than half of its songs. Although Nico exited the group after that album's release, all of the band members save drummer Maureen Tucker appeared on her debut solo album, Chelsea Girl (1967), which included several songs written by her former bandmates. A heavily orchestrated, folk-tinged album in the style of the time (akin to her Elektra Records labelmate Judy Collins' contemporaneous release Wildflowers), it was best remembered for the dramatic title track, a seedy downtown New York character study, and for "These Days," a haunting folk tune penned by then-unknown California teenager Jackson Browne.

The Velvet Underground's John Cale became Nico's primary musical foil on her next three releases, providing arrangements on The Marble Index (1969), and both producing and playing the bulk of the instruments on Desertshore (1970) and The End... (1974). She also appeared on a live album credited to herself, Cale, Kevin Ayers and Brian Eno entitled June 1, 1974. After these increasingly dark and harrowing albums, Nico let her music career lay fallow for the remainder of the decade. Instead, she returned to acting, working exclusively with her then-lover, French writer-director Philippe Garrel. Between 1972's "The Inner Scar" and 1978's "Voyage au Jardin des Morts," Nico starred in all of Garrel's films, working opposite French film icons like Jean Seberg and Maria Schneider.

Despite battling an ongoing heroin addiction, Nico returned to music with a performance at New York's famed punk club CBGBs in early 1980. Her attempted comeback, a post-punk-infused album called Drama of Exile (1981), was derailed by a falling-out between the album's producer and the label that funded the sessions, resulting in the belated release of two considerably different versions. In 1985, she reunited with Cale to record the synth-driven Camera Obscura. On July 18, 1988, Nico suffered a heart attack while bicycling in Ibiza; striking her head on the pavement as she fell off the bike, she died of a massive cerebral hemorrhage. In the decades following her death, Nico remained a music and style icon, influencing artists ranging from Elliott Smith to Wes Anderson, who made use of two songs from Chelsea Girl in the soundtrack of "The Royal Tenenbaums" (2001).

VIEW THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Filmographyclose complete filmography

CAST: (feature film)

1.
 Red Sorghum (1988)
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Please support TCMDB by adding to this information.

Click here to contribute