The rumors aren't true: David Hasselhoff did not bring down the Berlin Wall. But he was there to sing over the ruins.
The man better known for American TV shows Baywatch and Knight Rider delivered a song that became a soundtrack for the Wall's fall. Called "Looking for Freedom," it was the centerpiece of a New Year's Eve concert he headlined at Berlin's Brandenburg Gate a few weeks later. His choice of clothing? A custom-made jacket sparkling with electric lights.
Hasselhoff was a pop idol in Germany: "Looking for Freedom" spent weeks at number one on the German charts in the summer of 1989. And with both East and West Berliners listening to the same radio stations, pretty much everyone knew the tune — especially since it was based on an earlier song, a schmaltzy 1978 hit called "Auf Der Strasse Nach Suden."
So when Berlin authorities wanted to put on the biggest, most fabulous New Year's Eve show imaginable, they turned to Hasselhoff.
Hasselhoff tells NPR's Guy Raz that he still has the light-up jacket. "I think that jacket now is more famous than me," he says. It had originally been designed for a Fourth of July concert with the Osmonds, but when the Berlin promoters agreed to let Hasselhoff sing from a crane overlooking the Wall, he decided to fire up the jacket again.
Hasselhoff recalls that at first he was mostly worried for his pregnant wife, who was being hoisted atop the Wall to watch the show. But then he began to look around and take in the scene.
"There's no way I'll ever top this," he remembers thinking. "This is an amazing moment in history and I'm right here."
Hasselhoff says he's heading back to Berlin. He plans to be there as the city celebrates the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Wall — and he says that if anyone asks, he'll be happy to sing "Looking for Freedom."