A revolutionary artist and a huge influence in his native Germany, singer/songwriter Rio Reiser was born Ralph Möbius in Berlin and spent most of his childhood traveling thanks to his father's job. As he would say in later interviews, music was an effort to create something like a permanent home. He taught himself guitar, piano, and cello and during his teen years gave himself the stage name Rio Reiser as a reference to Karl Philipp Moritz's mammoth autobiographical work Anton Reiser. After he spent some time with the pop group the Beat Kings, he formed an avant-garde theater group with his brother in Berlin. One bizarre opera later, the theater group dissolved, but Reiser had already moved on and joined the rock group Ton Steine Scherben, who released their self-titled debut in 1970. They built a cult following by writing aggressive anthems that spoke to Germany's leftist youth.
After numerous albums and tours, Ton Steine Scherben broke up in 1985, leaving Reiser to launch a solo career. His debut solo album, Rio 1, arrived in 1986. Through the years he would work with more new wave-oriented producers like Gareth Jones and Annette Humpe, and while his lyrics and politics remained radical, his popularity grew. A 1990 move from Germany's Green Party to the Communist Party of Democratic Socialism made news and had more conservative radio stations refusing to play his music. On August 20, 1996, Reiser passed away at his home in Fresenhagen after hepatitis C and internal bleeding led to a cardiovascular collapse. A tribute concert in Berlin featured Einstürzende Neubauten, Marianne Rosenberg, Herbert Grönemeyer, and many others. In 2006 the European music and entertainment trade show Popkomm honored his memory by creating the Rio Reiser Song Prize for excellence in songwriting. ~ David Jeffries