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A multi-talented artist/writer/musician, Funny van Dannen established himself musically with Die Lassie Singers in the 1990s. He then trailed off from that influential Berlin-based band to focus more intently on his books and solo recordings, as well as his paintings and family. As a solo artist, Van Dannen's music is characterized by his songwriting; in fact, most of his albums are recorded live in intimate settings and feature him alone with his acoustic guitar, thereby putting himself and his songs on stark display. His songs are humorous and thoughtful, to such a degree that audience reaction, generally generous laughter, is a key aspect of his recordings, taking the place of the absent backing band in a way. In terms of book authorship, van Dannen often compiled collections of mixed media; for instance, his first major book, Spurt ins Glück (1991, Warnke & Maas, Berlin), was a collection of short stories, poems, and photos. His paintings are also worthy of mention, as they predated both his recordings and books in the public eye. Van Dannen also busies himself as a husband and father when he's not pursuing his artistic talents.
Van Dannen was born Franz-Josef Dajka-Hagmanns in 1958 in Tüddern, a small town of approximately 2,000 in North Rhine-Westphalia near the German-Netherlands border. He was born of Dutch ancestry, grew up speaking a Limburgish dialect, and as a youth played soccer for Fortuna Sittard, a professional club in the Netherlands. In 1978 van Dannen moved to Berlin, where he worked as an artist, and in 1988 co-founded Die Lassie Singers, a rock band also comprised of Christiane Rösinger and Almut Klotz that debuted on Flittchen Records in 1991 (Die Lassie Singers Helfen Dir) and released a few follow-ups (Sei à Gogo, 1992; Stadt, Land, Verbrechen, 1995; Hotel, Hotel, 1996), dissolving ten years later with the release of Best of Lassie Singers (1998). The dissolution of Die Lassie Singers was partly on account of van Dannen's solo career, which began with Clubsongs (1995), released by Trikont, a Munich-based indie, in conjunction with Indigo.
Van Dannen recorded albums on a mostly annual basis in the years that followed: Basics (1996), Info 3 (1997), Uruguay (1999), Melody Star (2000), Groooveman (2002), Herzscheiße (2003), Nebelmaschine (2005), and Authentic Trip (2005) are among his Trikont releases, almost all of them live recordings. JKP, the label founded by Die Toten Hosen, released his 2007 album Trotzdem Danke. In addition to his own recordings, van Dannen's songs were frequently covered by others, most notably Die Toten Hosen, who performed his songs on several albums of theirs and hold him in high esteem. Other notable artists to cover van Dannen songs are Rantanplan, Udo Lindenberg, and Die Schröders; in particular, the latter enjoyed a big hit with a punk version of "Saufen." Van Dannen's books include the following: Spurt ins Glück (1991), Jubel des Lebens (1993), Am Wegesrand (1996), Komm in Meine Arme (1996), Der Tag als Rosi Kam (1997), Neues von Gott (2004), and Zurück im Paradies (2007).