Heinz Erhardt

German comedian, poet, musician, and actor Heinz Erhardt yearned to be a professional pianist in his youth, but his grandparents, with whom he spent the majority of his childhood, steered him toward a merchant's life. Despite their misgivings, Erhardt continued to focus his energies on music, even serving as piano player in the marine orchestra after being drafted during World War II. He took to radio after the war, becoming a moderator on NWDR (Nordwestdeutscher Rundfunk), a northwest German public radio station, and began to find his voice as an entertainer with an affinity for "pun poems." A long career as an actor and public figure followed, earning Erhardt accolades from all over Europe, as well as the prestigious German Distinguished Service Cross, which was presented to Erhardt four days before his death from a stroke in 1979. ~ James Christopher Monger

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