In the 60s and 70s, he was one of the biggest names on the hit scene: with hits like "da sprach der alte hauptling der indianer" or "der mann im mond", gus backus became a star. The new york native also made a name for himself as an actor.
Now he has died after a serious illness in his adopted home of germering near munich. Backus was 81 years old. For his last birthday, he had only one wish: "that I would live to be 90," he had told the german press agency.
The life of sonnyboy was marked by highs and lows. While he was touring as a sought-after schlager star, he had to struggle with alcohol and pill problems. "It’s a tremendous effort to be entertaining and funny," he summed up in his autobiography, "I don’t eat sauerkraut.
The title of his life story is based on one of his most famous film appearances. In the austrian comedy "unsere tollen tanten" (1961) he sang in weiber schurze und kochmutze with an american accent: "i like to eat sauerkraut and dance polka, and my bride heibt edeltraut, she thinks just like me."Later he only thought: "you can never show this to your mother."
Musically the schlagerbeau started during his time with the military. As a founding member of the group "the del-vikings" he secured himself a record contract. While his band was on the rise, donald edgar backus, as he was known, was transferred to germany at the age of 20. Stationed in wiesbaden, he met his first wife karin there, with whom he had three children. Marriage went to pieces.
After the breakthrough in the USA, backus became popular in germany, austria and switzerland as a singing GI – that’s what US soldiers are also called. With hits like "wooden heart," "linda," "rote lippen soll man kussen" and "no bier, no wein, no schnaps," he celebrated major schlager successes. His songs tell of pleasure, friendship and rough love – often in a comedic way, as in the schunkel number "bohnen in die ohren" ("beans in the ears").
After his second marriage to the ballet dancer heidelore also failed, backus returned to the u.S. Driven by financial problems. There he got by as a casual laborer. "The main thing was that you could walk and had two arms and a healthy cross – and you were willing," he recalled of those days. In the USA he married a third time, but his wife byra died in 2001.
Backus reorganized his life and returned to his family in germany and his former love heidelore – the two married a second time.
Backus will be buried in the closest circle of the family, his daughter declared one day after his death on friday. A rough funeral service is not planned. "That was his wish."