On this day in 1938, Christa Päffgen was born in Cologne, Germany. By the mid-1960s—after a successful stint modeling—she had appeared in Fellini’s La Dolce Vita and transformed herself into Nico, the flaxen-haired chanteuse of the Velvet Underground. When not singing in Andy Warhol’s famed Factory house band, she hung with the likes of Rolling Stone Brian Jones, Jim Morrison and Bob Dylan. Dylan penned “I’ll Keep it with Mine” for Nico, who recorded it on her 1967 debut solo album Chelsea Girl (named for a short film made by Warhol in which Nico appeared).
Despite being deaf in one ear and battling a long-term heroin addiction, Nico was instrumental in defining the sound of the Velvet Underground. Despite a cool initial reception, their debut album (The Velvet Underground & Nico), became an iconic album not merely for its famed cover art, in part thanks to Nico’s haunting vocals on tracks like “Femme Fatale.”
Nico was known for her almost icy Teutonic elegance, and trademark eye-grazing blunt bangs. During her New York years, she wore little makeup—with the exception of dark, lush lashes, every bit the ‘femme fatale.’
Nico died in 1988 while visiting Ibiza with her son after a bicycling accident. She was 49 years old.
Today, in honor of the Ice Queen’s birthday, we’ll be cranking up the Velvet Underground & Nico and bringing you “All Tomorrow’s Parties.” Enjoy.